Canoe prow figure head (musumusu or nguzunguzu)

Probably New Georgia, Solomon Islands
Late 19th to early 20th century


20.32 cm (8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, shell inlay

On View

Arts of Asia, Oceania, and Africa Gallery (Gallery 177)


Africa and Oceania


Warfare, hunting, fishing

Small figures such as this one were tied above the waterline to the towering prows of large, plank canoes, used for warfare and fishing, which could accommodate over thirty men. The figures seem to have been associated with Kesoko, a beneficent spirit who warded off dangerous water spirits and approaching enemies. Shell inlay and incised lines on the faces reflect the designs men in the Solomon Islands painted on their faces with lime.


November 27, 1978, sold by Alain de Monbrison (dealer), Paris, to William and Bertha Teel, Marblehead, MA; 1996, partial gift of William and Bertha Teel to the MFA; 2014, acquired fully with the bequest of William Teel to the MFA. (Accession Dates: December 18, 1996 and February 26, 2014)

Credit Line

Gift of William E. and Bertha L. Teel