The high concentrated liquid was consumed using a straw (also known as a burau) in the hope of allowing communion with ancestor spirits.
A variety of bowl shapes were made; one in the form of a winged bird was sold by Devon saleroom Rendells for an unexpected £4600 last December. However, the anthropomorphic types are particularly rare and perhaps made at a single centre.
The form (fewer than 10 are known) is today better known from the many lie 19th century homages designed by Christopher Dresser for manufacture in iron at Kendrick and pottery at Linthorpe factory.
This 10½in (27cm) Fijian example, offered for sale by Lyon & Turnbull (25/20% buyer’s premium) in Edinburgh on May 5 from a UK private collection, was acquired by the vendor’s father in the mid 1960s.
It has the patination and kava deposits indicative of use. An example at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, shares the same subtle slant in the shoulders – suggesting it was deliberate – while in stylistic terms, the piece bears closest similarity to an early 19th century example collected by Captain Henry Denham of HMS Herald in 1854, now displayed in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.
Estimated at £8000-12,000, it took £55,000.
Also headlining this sale titled African & Oceanic Art, Antiquities and Natural History was a Cycladic marble head made c.2600-2400BC.
It was the Cycladic people who produced the very first masterpieces of Greek marble sculpture. Idols such as this – it measures just 4½in (11.5cm) tall – were carved throughout the archipelago for more than 1000 years. Though originally painted with blue or red pigments, it was their minimalist appearance that stimulated many of the great 20th century artists, including Brancusi, Modigliani, and Picasso.
This example had a provenance to a Swiss private collection and had been acquired in 1992. It sold within estimate at £22,000.