The number and variety of Fijian war club is testament to the fact that Fiji was beset by a long history of warfare and rampant ceremonial cannibalism. This article aims to help the reader understand and distinguish the different types and their intended specialized functions.
Fijian clubs were the most cherished personal possessions of the Fijian warrior. It was designed and made for specific purposes and there are approximately thirty distinct and diverse types of Fijian War club.
Fijian clubs that had been successfully use to kill were either inlayed with human teeth or by the cutting of notches on the grip. A club use to kill many enemies was believed to have a life power of its own or mana. A Fijian War club with large amounts of mana were sometimes placed in a temple to the gods of war, and became ritual objects in funerary rites and certain craft ceremonies.
Types of Fijian clubs could can be further divided by surface ornamentation and design, type of wood, and by the type and nature of coir sennet wrapping. If you are interested in these details I highly recommend the book Fijian Weapons and Warfare by Fergus Clunie to which a lot of the information from this article is extracted.
Fijian War Club Types
Kiakavo Fijian War Club
According to Fijian Weapons and Warfare by Clunie, “ “typical kiakava … dance and ceremonial clubs, rarely if ever used for fightingso lacking a cutting edge – the underside of the head is rounded in the kiakavo, not angled as with the Gata and Sali spurred clubs. Kiakavo were made in a variety of hardwoods and softwoods and a wide range of sizes. Collectors are not keen on Kiakavo probably due to their ceremonial nature and the fact they are far from rare.
Gata Fijian War Club
This is one of the most widely used war club in Fiji. The angled cutting edge was designed to cut through and snap bones. The spur on the very top perhaps represents the open mouth of the striking snake.
Tudonu – a straight shafted form of Gata
Tavo – Rare form of Gata without the characteristic spur
Sali Fijian War Club
Also known as Cali or Tebetebe these clubs are similar to Gata clubs but they have wider cheeks and a more pronounced spur. They were used in the same way as a Gata with a cutting edge to snap and cut bone. There is a variety of Sali made from a lighter wood made for ceremonial dances. Sometimes misdescribed as a gunstock clubs.
Gugu Fijian War Club
These clubs are believed to come from the interior of Vitilevu and are well represented in museums. Little is known about these clubs but they were probably used in ceremonial dances. They are highly collectable and much sort after. Sometimes misdescribed as a Lotus clubs or axe head clubs they were actually named after the butterfly fish.
I tuki Fijian War Club
Known generically as battle hammers they were just that being used to smash open the heads of the enemy with a heavy blow. They are a rare form of club and possibly predate the totokia
Totokia Fijian War Club
According to Fijian Weapons and Warfare by Clunie, “It was designed to drive or peck a neat hole through the enemy’s skull, the weight of the bulky head being concentrated in the point of the beak. These clubs were much carried by chiefs in both life and death and according to tradition were particularly favoured for murder and in skirmish warfare in thick bush, the heavy head driving the beak through the skull without a long warning swing likely to alert the target or catch on undergrowth” Sometimes misdescribed as a pineapple club they were being manufactured well before the pineapple was introduced to Fiji
Culacula Fijian War Club
These broad flat bladed clubs were used in a sword like manner with the blow being struck on the thin edges cutting through bone like an axe rather than smashing it like a club. They are probably of Samoan or Tongan origin but so widely used by Fijians as to become a Fijian club. Sometimes misdescribed as a paddle club or spade club due to their shape.
Kinikini Fijian War Club
Similar in shape to a Culacula these clubs were used by chiefs / priests and were very broad doubling as a shield and as used as a symbol of rank. The blades of a Kinikini tend not only to be broader but are more highly decorated than that of a Culacula. Due to their association with chiefs and priests and the ornate nature of their blades these clubs are rare and highly collectable.
Dui Fijian War Club
A moderately rare form of Fijian Club which according to Capel in the new Fijian dictionary describes as having a broad head shaped like a fan.
Teivakatoga Fijian War Club
Of Tongan origin this club was also used with the cutting edge. It was mainly used in the Lau islands and other areas with strong Tongan influence.
Bowai Fijian War Club
Looking much like a baseball bat they were used like an oversized truncheon or cudgels for smashing skulls. The cudgels were often named after the wood they were made from
Gadi – A small form of one-handed Bowai that does not flare towards the end. Used as much as a wife beater as a weapon of war.
Vunikau Fijian War Club
These are also called rootstock clubs, as that is precisely what they are made from. Favoured in open situations due to their reach they were used for smashing skulls and ribcages.
Waka Fijian War Club
Waka same in form as a Vunikau with only a short section of the tap root retained, the rest having been removed
Bulikia fijian War club
Bulikia same in form as Vunikau but with the tap root having been almost completely removed.
Bulibuli Fijian War Club
Similar in form and function as a Vunikau club only the head has been carefully formed and modified. A similar Ula was made probably to accompany this type of club.
Read About Tongan Clubs
Read about the Maori Native Weapons
Ula Fijian War Club
Ula were made for throwing at an enemy and often a Fijian warrior would have several either tucked into his belt or close to hand. It is for this reason they are the most common type of Fijian war club on the market. Ula come in many different forms.
I Ula Kobo
A natural root throwing club
I Ula Drisia
A common type of Ula where the head is a ball shape
I Ula Kitu
A common type of Ula where the head is shaped like a small coconut container or kitu from which the club gets its name
I Ula Bulibuli
A rare form of Ula made possibly as a companion piece for a Bulibuli club. Same head shape.
I Ula Soba
Rare form of Ula best recognized by the cross deeply cut in the head
I Ula Vutu
A rare form of Ula with a squarish head in cross section.
I Ula Tavatava
A common type of Ula with flanges or lobes on the head of the club
I Ula Gasau
A very rare form of Ula where the head is shaped of a tiqa dart. Their distribution was possibly restricted to the Vitilevu highlands
I Love Fijian Clubs especially old and Rare types so why not sell yours to me!
Fijian War clubs are collectable in their own right but they ar also highly desirable to collectors of Oceanic Art / Pacific Art, Militaria collectors and specifically to a collector of pacific island weapons.
Rare forms of Fijian War Club are of course more expensive than common varieties. Old shark tooth carved varieties more valued than steel carved. Patina from use especially kill marks and feasting dots increase a clubs value. Intensely carved examples tend to be more desirable as do beautiful forms and inlayed ivory and teeth make an huge difference to value.
Images of some top Fijian War Clubs