In my previous post about the Fiji collections, I included a few images of Fijian weapons from Te Papa’s collections. In this blog post I thought I’d take the Fiji weapon story a bit further and into popular culture. Here, I just want to highlight the small contribution Fiji weapons offered to the imaginings for one of the most successful science fiction films of all time….George Lucas’s Star Wars.
How do Fijian clubs fit into the technoscape of Star Wars?
In the 1970s. a weapon known as a totokia was the inspiration for Star Wars prop designers who developed the gaderffii or gaffi stick, a weapon used by the Tusken Raiders on Tatooine, one of the planets in George Lucas’s invented galaxy. The handle of the gaffi stick incorporated a full-length totokia and other versions incorporated other forms of long-handled Fijian clubs.
In Fiji during the 1800s, totokia were weapons often associated with chiefs and warriors of reputation. According to Fiji material culture scholar Fergus Clunie who describes it as a beaked battlehammer, “…the totokia was intended to “peck” holes in skulls.” The weight of the head of the club was concentrated in the point of the beak of the weapon or kedi-toki (toki” to peck; i toki: a bird’s beak) (1977:55). The totokia “…delivered a deadly blow in an abrupt but vicious stab, not requiring the wide swinging arc demanded by the others.” (1986:185) It was a club that could be used in open warfare or to finish off or execute warriors on the battlefield.
A few bloggers have picked up on this connection between the gaffi stick and the totokia over the last few months, and it has probably been well known in the Star Wars geekscape for some years. There are even websites with instructions on how to build your own gaffi-stick and the costumes of the Tusken Raiders, and one fan has developed a “Fijian Totokia war clubs” kit for people to purchase.
Te Papa has several examples of Fijian totokia from the 1800s in its collections. European collectors often referred to totokia as pineapple clubs but other commentators have said that the appearance of the business end of the club more resembles that of the pandanus fruit.
Totokia are very top-heavy. They are usually carved from a beautiful dark timber and are often decorated with detailed carvings. Some examples are inset with human teeth or small pieces of whale ivory. They are an intriguing glimpse into indigenous warfare in Fiji but also the skill and creativity of local carvers. What would these carvers make of this Star Wars connection today?
The gaffi stick links
Check out Wookieepedia: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Gaderffii
Check out gaderffii: http://www.partsofsw.com/gaffi_b.htm
Make your own: http://www.tk409.com/tusken.html
Clunie, Fergus, Fijian Weapons and Warfare. Bulletin of The Fiji Museum, No. 2.Suva, 1977.
Clunie, Fergus, Yalo i Viti. A Fiji Museum Catalogue. Fiji Museum. Suva, 1986.