Arawak Club – Guyana or Brazil

A precisely carved club (macana) of waisted, quadrangular form. The grip is wrapped with light-colored cord and wound with a length of twisted fiber rope. Two-toned wood is employed to dramatic effect, presenting one dark face and one light. Clubs of this type are associated exclusively with the Wapitxana, an Arawak tribe, in the Roraima area of southern Guyana and northern Brazil. Several examples were among the earliest objects to reach Europe from Guyana in the seventeenth century, entering first the Tradescant collection and then the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

An early description of this type of war club in Dutch Guiana, based on observations made in the years 1772–1777, is given by Captain Stedman, who writes, “I must not forget that every Indian carries a club, which they call apootoo, for their defence. These clubs are made of the heaviest wood in the forest; they are about eighteen inches long, flat at both ends, and square, but heavier at one end than the other.”

Early 19th century
Wood, fiber
13” l 3.25” w
Provenance: Private USA collection
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