This nineteenth century ancestor figure is known as a matakau, which is a material representation of the dead that was kept in the spirit house. Captured warriors were shown these figures before being put to death and eaten. Priests also used these figures in communicating with the spirit world. It is likely the figure was part of a post within the spirit house made from sacred vesi wood (Intsia bijuga). The pubic triangle is carved to represent the tattooing every woman of marriageable age was obliged to undertake.

Physical Description

An anthropomorphic female figure made from the trunk of a palm tree. The figure has one arm.

More Information

  • Collection Names

    Alfred Coles Collection

  • Collecting Areas

    Pacific Cultures

  • Maker


  • Date Produced


  • Date Collected


  • Locality

    Locality unrecorded, Fiji

  • Object/Medium

    Matakau [Figure]

  • Category

    Indigenous Collections

  • Discipline


  • Type of item


  • Object Measurements

    680 mm (Length), 150 mm (Width), 115 mm (Height)

  • Fiji website project (Ron Vanderwal, Senior Curator)

    160 mm (Width), 575 mm (Height)
    H.575mm W.160mm

  • Exhibition Collection Management

    180 mm (Length), 100 mm (Width), 690 mm (Height)

  • Dimensions

    690 mm (Length), 160 mm (Width), 120 mm (Height)
    Measurement From Conservation. Measuring Method: maximum dimensions

  • References

    [Book] Museum Victoria. 2004. Treasures of the Museum. Victoria, Australia.
    [Book] Hooper, Stephen. 2016. Fiji. Art & Life in the Pacific.

  • Keywords