The Mentawai Islands are a chain of about seventy islands off the western coast of Sumatra in Indonesia. Unfortunately, Mentawai has become a modern surfing hot spot and an invasion of surfers will probably wipe its unique and fascinating art and culture if it has not already done so.
Traditionally, there were two types of canoe paddles used on these small islands. Elegant woman's paddles, fairly lightweight, with a flat and narrow spearhead-shaped blade and U-shaped terminal at the top of the handle, and the man's paddle, which is heavier and has a long, concave curved blade for greater speed. In this example, the curved lade is longer than the handle inself.
The male paddles, such as this one, which turned up at a Sydney auction about 20 years ago, are extremely rare. This one has been well used as evidenced by the patina at the top of the handle and at the bottom where it joins the blade, which were where it would have been gripped by a seated paddler.
Length 159 cm / 62 ½ inches, blade arounbd rhe curve 89cm / 35 inche.