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War Club Designs


Tongan clubs have been used throughout pre and post-contact times. Prior to the introduction of iron materials by Captain Cook and other sailors, sharks tooth, bone, and stone were used to etch designs onto the clubs. However, after the introduction of iron materials such as nails, club designs became very elaborate and decorative through the ease of these tools. There are various types of clubs found throughout Tonga. These clubs were used for warfare and traditional dance as in the Me'etu'upaki. There are several categories of Tongan warclubs:

1) Kolo - The short throwing club

2) Povai - The pole club which can be compared to a baseball bat in shape with the same flared rounded head

3) There is also a variation of the povai with a flattened top to the clubhead

4) Apa'apai - The club with a diamond-sectioned flat-topped head sometimes referred to as a coconut-stalk club, although it is the actual coconut leaf midrib which is meant

5)There is also a type of apa'apai that is similar but with a head that is more spatulate and rounded at the upper end like a paddle club

6) Moungalaulau - The paddle club with its rounded upper end was often distinguished by finely carved decoration over its entire surface and was sometimes found with and without a transverse ridged collar or cross rib.


These designs are close-ups of the various apa'apai clubs. For the sake of space, I've chosen to just show detailed pictures rather than the whole club itself. If you're interested in seeing what the club actually looks like, check out "The Art of Tonga" by Keith St Cartmail. There is a section on Tongan warclubs with color photos.





The above pictures are close ups of the apa'apai variety club. The designs are intricate and vary from club to club. Research has been done on the various designs contained within the club. It is said that they too have their roots in the early Lapita designs.

Many of the club patterns contained figures of animals such as dogs, turtles, octopus, sharks and various types of fish. There are also some that have human figures (both men and women), crescents, and series of three dots (in various formations - possibly the Tukihea) similar to the dot patterns found in Ngatu prints.