Dinonga eidu carvings

Dinonga eidu carving, Historic Preservation and Cultural Affairs Office, Pohnpei

Nukuoran labagau are renowned for carving the dinonga eidu deity sculptures.

The dinonga eidu statues stored in Western museum collections were created in the late 18th and early 19th centuries by Nukuoran master carvers. They were carved from the wood of the breadfruit tree (artocarpus altilis) with local adzes equipped with tridacna shell blades (gima) or with western metal blade tools and polished with pumice.

The anthropomorphic sculptures measuring from 30 to 217 cm embodied female and male deities, that were associated with the five family groups of the archipelago (sekave, seala, sehege, sehena and seolo), individual priests (aligi) and specific temples. 

The artists understood how to reduce the human body to its basic features and chose a clear language of forms. Solely, the shoulder parts were partially decorated with fine incised drawings, which corresponded to chiefly tattoo patterns.

Carvings within the ritual context

The dinonga eidu played a central role in dagodonga ceremonies, which took place during the harvest time towards the end of the month of madaligi (january): For the duration of the rituals, the sculptures were considered the dwelling place of the spirit of a deified ancestor (eidu dangada) or of a mythical god (dubua). In this context the life-size statues in the malae (temple precincts) and the amalau (main spirit house at the eastend of the temple district) were adorned with garments and presented with offerings.

Furthermore, for important events like birth, marriage, illness, death, natural disasters and the construction of houses and canoes, the gods embodied in the dinonga eidu were invoked by the priests.