Bonito Canoe model

Possibly Ulawa Island, Eastern Solomon Islands
20th century, 1950–2000
Artist unknown, Pacific Islander, Artist Unidentified, Pacific Islander

Object Place: Solomon Islands


Overall: 33.5 x 139 x 13.5 cm (13 3/16 x 54 3/4 x 5 5/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Wood, parinarium nut resin, varnish, nautilus shell, juste fabric [repair]

Not On View


Africa and Oceania, Contemporary Art



Solomon Islanders have long traded model canoes with other islanders. In the mid-nineteenth century, they began to make them for sale. This is one of many instances where production for the Western market began with the earliest contact. The model is a faithful replica of the sacred bonito canoe. Its iconography alludes to the cult of the bonito fish, and features the frigate bird, the fish itself, the blueback sprat (another fish), and a dog. The stylized frigate bird at the prow represents the bird’s key role for the fishermen, who locate schools of bonito by watching birds that follow the fish.


red plastic label on side: "34"


1948, sold by Galerie Carrefour, Paris, to Geneviève McMillan (b. 1922 - d. 2008), Cambridge, MA; 2008, to the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation, Cambridge; 2009, gift of the Geneviève McMillan and Reba Stewart Foundation to the MFA. (Accession Date: June 17, 2009)

Credit Line

Gift of Geneviève McMillan in memory of Reba Stewart