A good old piece from a 1960s fishing canoe with a protective smiling spirit figure or Bualai at the centre of the two lobes. The curvilinear design of the lobes incorporates several bird heads, an important feature. Please note the grooves at the back of the board and minor damage at the bottom edge, which prove that it was in fact attached to a canoe. This is a small splashboard from a 2 � 3 person fishing canoe and it measures 42 x 41 cm / 17 � x 16 inches.
Like the large spalshboards of the kula voyaging canoes, this piece has one lobe larger than the other (the larger lobe was always in the outrigger side). This object is NOT a canoe prow, but is part of the superstructure of the canoe. At the same time it is ritualistically the most important and significant carving on the canoe.
Like most sea-going canoes in Melanesia, Trobriands canoes are carved from a single log, and balanced with an outrigger. The canoe makers of the Trobriands erect a box like structure on top of this hollowed log to shelter crew, passengers and cargoes, and this is closed at the prow and stern by a splashboard or �lagim�. A false prow called the� tabua� or wave splitter is placed in front of it, above the actual prow of the canoe. There is a lagim and tabua at each end. The long side planks that build up the sides of the canoe slot into the splashboards, and any splashboard which has actually been on a canoe will have parallel grooves cut in at the back on either side to hold them in place, as this example has.
Reference: �Argonauts of the Western Pacific�, Bronislaw Malinowski, 1922