Illustration principale
Tabua
Fiji Islands, Polynesia, 19th century

Whale tooth
Length : 14,5 cm


Provenance : Private collection, United Kingdom

Publication : "KunstKammer"
(M. Doustar, 2017), n°64

The term tabua refers to a presentation whale tooth, the greatest of all Fijian valuables. Originally taken from the lower jaw of sperm whales found stranded on Fijian beaches, tabua are pierced and braided whale teeth. they are considered by Fijians as a Kavakaturanga or "chiefly thing". Whale ivory in Fiji is closely associated with divine power and with chiefs as embodiments of divine ancestors. Tabua are not worn but are presented at important ceremonies, including weddings, births and funerals. Tabua used to be the most effective way to give weight to an apology or pledge allegiance.The occasion where tabua are presented also determines their spiritual value.
Ceremonial tabua -like the above example- have holes drilled through the tip and the butt, and a braided sennit cord is attached. To make tabua, the whale teeth are polished and sometimes rubbed with coconut oil and tumeric to darken them. In some cases the teeth are smoked in a small tent-like structure covered in bark cloth to turn them a rich tobacco color. The present example shows a superb smooth surface and rich honey-colored patina.
Price on request