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Oceania
Tahiti, Society Islands
Fly-Whisk Handle
Before 1818
Whale ivory, wood, sennit
H. 12 5/16 in. (31.3 cm)
Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection
Indiana University Art Museum, 2010.22


This fly-whisk handle was presented by Pomare II, the king of Tahiti, to the Reverend Thomas Haweis, a founder of the London Missionary Society. In the Society Islands and many other Polynesian islands, ivory objects were signs of prestige and status. Before European contact, ivory was obtained only from sperm whale teeth. Later, Europeans brought walrus ivory, which became a valuable trade item.