ARTE FRANCE, PROGRAM 33
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From New Caledonia, the "flèche faitière" arrow is a wooden sculpture that decorated the roof of major ceremonial houses, and embodied the founding ancestor of a clan. It is considered as one of the greatest successes of Oceanic art.
In this capacity it represented the transition between the world of the dead and the world of the living. In addition to its symbolic function, the fleche faitière also had a political function. It belonged to the chief and marked his power over his subjects. It was for this reason that Kanak independentists unanimously adopted it for their flag in 1984.
The arrow usually ends in a needle (missing here) that can receive shells, threaded on from bottom to top. One of the shells contains preparations that ensure the protection of the house and the country it represents. Often, in the event of war or during funerary rites, it was a favourite target of warriors.
When the chief died, the fleche faitière was stripped of its shell decoration and the chief's family took the sculpture home. They were allowed to use it again. However, it was a sign of respect not to erect the ornament on another house. It was therefore usually laid on the burial places of important people, on the mounds of abandoned grand houses.