'Ambau or M'bau [Bau], Feejee Islands, Octr 1849' [Fiji]

No. 26b in Fanshawe's Pacific album, 1849 - 52. Captioned by the artist on the album page below the image, as title. Bau, pronounced M'bau, is a small island off the east coast of Viti Levu but one of great importance in the history of the group. A very large number of Fijian leaders have been natives of Bau, the Bauans also having established early 19th-century dominance by being the earliest Fijians to acquire firearms. 'The next day', wrote Fanshawe (probably 1 October), 'I went away with many officers to Ambau. This is a small island, not more than three miles in circumference, but it is the residence of the most powerful chiefs in the Fijis, and the scene of some of the most horrible atrocities. Not many weeks before...some visitors from a distance were at Ambau, and it was necessary in order to entertain them with due honour that there should be a cannibal feast. The "Chief of the fisherman", or in our language the Admiral of the fleet, is the person upon whom devolves the duty of procuring victims. He therefore addressed his men to the effect that their department was very much behindhand in its duty. There had been strangers of distinction for several days at Ambau and no bodies brought in; some must be procured immediately to retrieve their credit'. Fanshawe then recounts how they seized 14 fisherwomen and the body of a man killed defending them, of whom five were killed for the feast before the intervention of Mrs Lythe and Mrs Calvert, the wives of two of the missionaries from Viwa (their husbands being absent) saved the others. These included one woman who already had several blows to the head. 'Such are the scenes which pass on all available occasions at Ambau. At the time of my visit pieces of the cannibal feast were still, according to custom, hanging on the trees; however, all was quiet' (Fanshawe [1904] pp. 230-31). He saw the injured woman recovering later on Rewa: ' Her head was deeply furrowed with the blows of the axe, and it must have been very providential that the brain was not touched' (p. 240). The drawing shows the town from the bay, with canoes. Fanshawe did nine drawings of Fiji and Fijians, including two studies of local weapons, PAI4631-PAI4639.

Object Details

ID: PAI4632
Type: Drawing
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Fanshawe, Edward Gennys
Places: Mbau
Date made: Oct 1849
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Sheet: 73 x 176 mm
Parts: Album of watercolours of Madeira, Brazil, the Falkland and Pacific Islands, Chile, Panama, Mexico, Vancouver, and California (Album)

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