Ceremonial sword "Te Toanea"


Kiribati culture, Gilbert Islands, Micronesia, 20th century, private collection from Finland.

Kiribati, officially the Republic of Kiribati, is an independent country in the central Pacific Ocean. The permanent population is around 110,000, more than half of whom live on Tarawa atoll. The 33 islands, of which only 20 are inhabited, are scattered over a vast area of ocean.

Isolated as an island group, the people of the Kiribati use the limited resources they have on hand to produce their material culture. Historically the I-Kiribati produced extraordiary objects such as suite of armor made from coconut fiber. The armor provided protection from the dangerous shark's teeth edged swords, spears, and daggers carried by island warriors.

These unique swords (called te toanea or te winnarei) were made from coconut tree, affixed with dozens of shark tooth barbs, acting as a blades for slashing and tearing enemy armor and flesh. Along with a sword and armor, warrior wore belt made of stingray skin (tekatibana) and a special helmet made of hollowed and dried out puffer fish (tebarantauti).

The armor, shark's teeth weapons, and other accessories have been worn in conflict resolution between individuals or groups of people. They were used also as part of ceremonial warfare performances, the maintenance of honour and the settling of disputes in ritual duelling. In all contests, the aim was to wound your adversary, not to kill them, as a wound would be adequate retribution.

Absolutely stunning smaller sword are made from coconut wood, fiber, various shark teeth and human hair. Good condition. Age-related wear and signs of use. One tooth missing, resulting from usage. Dust and dirt. Size approx. 51cm x 4,5cm.