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Fijian Tabua

Date: pre 1980s
Overall: 165 x 70 x 45 mm, 0.55 kg
Medium: Sperm whale tooth, coconut fibre cord
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Transfer from Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service
Object Name: Tabua
Object No: 00006991
Place Manufactured:Fiji

User Terms

    A Fijian Tabua, or sperm whale tooth on a decorative cord.

    SignificanceThe Tabua is a highly significant and valued object in Fijian society. It is a powerful token that holds many meanings depending on the occasion in which it is presented.
    HistorySperm whale teeth, known as Tabua, are highly significant and powerful objects in Fijian society.
    Traditionally obtained from stranded sperm whales, the teeth were gifted between chiefs as a gesture of commitment to respect and agreement and as an act of goodwill. They were also offered as tokens of atonement and at marriages. Due to the significance of the Tabua and the act of presenting one, they are accompanied by a presentation ceremony.

    The colour of the whale tooth may vary - they were often purposefully darkened and have small holes drilled in each end to attach them to a woven or plaited fibre cord. The tabua is worn around the waist or neck as a pendant. Pronounced 'tam-boo-a'.

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