You are in site section: Online features

Bow kaufana

Bow kaufana

Place: Tonga
Category: Fishing & hunting

wood, plant fibre, Tonga, l. 186 cm, Inv. Oz 123

Humphrey No. 317: ‘a long bow, groved the whole length, supposed to be for a Cord to strengthen it, from the Friendly Isles.’

The bow is made of brown wood and curved, becoming slightly thinner towards both ends. The surface is even. A groove runs along the outer (convex) side of the bow, 9 mm wide and 9.5 mm deep in the middle. Both ends of the bow are notched from two sides for attaching the bowstring. The string itself hangs loose.

‘The bows are generally made of the wood of the mangrove, though some few of the casuarina wood (casuarina equisetifolia); the string is made of the inner bark of a tree they call alongá, and is exceedingly strong’ (Mariner 1817b: 287). Alongá was possibly a reference to ‘olonga (Pipturus argenteus). The kaufana were constructed so that the string would not bend the bow, but instead hung loose. The bow itself was naturally curved (Plischke 1957: 215f.). Forster (1989, I: 349f.) wrote that the kaufana was first made straight by pulling the string, and then forced in the opposite direction. Using it the ‘usual’ way would have cracked it (as happened to several Tongan bows used by British sailors). Plischke, however, (1957: 219) assumed that this would have happened when bending the kaufana in an ‘unusual’ way, but admitted that there is no certainty as to whether the bow was bent one way or the other. Concerning the function of the groove, Samwell (in Beaglehole 1967, lllb: 1037) supported Anderson’s statement (in Beaglehole 1967, IIb: 941), writing that ‘... a Groove large enough to receive the arrow which is made of Cane runs along the inside of the Bow.’

The bows were manufactured by men, but a special class of craftsmen did not exist (Mariner 1817a: 238, 287). Mariner (1817a: 283) distinguished between two types of bows, one designed for hunting and about two metres long, the other having been used in warfare and about one and a half metres long. Hunting birds with bow and arrow (fana kahai) was a sport only enjoyed by the high chiefs (Plischke 1957: 222). Ferdon (1987: 178) also mentioned rat hunting with bow and arrow. Referring to hunting as a sport, he claimed that it ‘appears to have been a male diversion that, depending upon the wildlife sought, might be enjoyed by all but the tu’a class of men.’ The tu’a class was the lowest within the stratified Tongan society (Ferdon 1987: 25). The sources depicting the use of the bow in warfare are sparse. However, Mariner (1817a: 283) noted that such a type of bow existed, at least at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Concerning the bow’s use in warfare, Samwell (in Beaglehole 1967, lllb: 1028) wrote: ‘... they have [clubs and] Spears & Bows & arrows, but, the latter especially, these can be but of very little use.’ He later supported this statement in writing about ‘Darts and Bows and Arrows which can answer very little purpose in War, their Arrows being too long & the Bows too weak ...’ (Samwell in Beaglehole 1967, lllb: 1037). Plischke (1957: 224) hypothesised that its use for warfare might have been a later influence from Fiji. A basis for this explanation can be found in the following statement by Clerke (in Beaglehole 1967, IIIb: 1312): ‘The Natives of Fidji are the only people in this part of the World, who use Bows & Arrows in Battle: it is very amazing ..., that they [the Tongans] do not attempt an imitation ..., they have Bows and Arrows, with which they Shoot Birds & Fish, but have no idea of improving them to nobler uses, tho’ they have the Example before their Eyes.’ Inken Köhler, Ulrike Rehr, Gundolf Krüger

Sources

Beaglehole, John Cawte, The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyages of Discovery. The Voyage of the Resolution and Discovery 1776-1780, Hakluyt Society, Extra Series, 36, 1 u. 2. vol. 3, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1955-1967 IIIa and IIIb.

Beaglehole, John Cawte, The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyages of Discovery The Voyage of the Resolution and Discovery 1776-1780, Hakluyt Society, Extra Series, 36, 1 u. 2. vol. 3, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1955-1967 IIIa and IIIb.

Ferdon, Edwin N, Early Tonga, As the Explorers Saw It, Tucson, 1987.

Forster, Georg, Reise um die Welt, 2 Teile, in Georg Steiner (ed.), Georg Forsters Werke (2 und 3), Sämtliche Schriften, Tagebücher, Briefe, herausgegeben von der Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR, Akademie-Verlag, Berlin, [1777] 1989.

Mariner, William, An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands in the South Pacific Ocean, 2 vols (a and b), London, 1817.

Plischke, Hans, ‘Bogen und Pfeil auf den Tonga-Inseln und in Polynesien’, Göttinger Volkerkundliche Studien, Dusseldorf, 1957, vol. 1, pp. 207-225.