This close quarter combat weapon is said to have belonged to Chief Rangiaho. It was taken by a British soldier fighting at Ngatapa Pa in 1869. Its ornate decoration suggests that it is a high status piece. With a name meaning ‘fish-mouth’, the form of the wahaika is unique and distinctive. Backwards-curving hand-clubs were made elsewhere in Polynesia (notably, on Easter Island) but the Maori developed this style to a remarkable degree of refinement. Like the curved slashing swords of Asia, the curved wooden blade along the wahaika’s striking edge created a larger surface that the striking force was applied through during a single blow; wounds were therefore larger. The name is believed to refer to the distinctive notch in the middle of the striking edge, which was used (like the forks in spurred Fijian clubs) to parry an enemy’s club and deflect it, or even disarm him.

Object Summary

Museum Number 1896/8/2
Simple Name weapon
Full Name hand club
Collection Country New Zealand
Common Name club
Production country New Zealand
Material hard wood
Collection class Arms and armour
Collection continent Oceania
Collection area/region Australia and New Zealand
Production continent Oceania
Production year low 1800
Production year high 1869
Cultural group Maori
Function name weapon
Function detail The piece was taken by Sgt. Howard Strong, Poverty Bay volunteers, on January 6th 1869 in fighting at Ngatapa Pa, Poverty Bay, against the Hau Haus under Te Kooti.