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Tabua 1963

Bone, coconut fibre | 67.0 x 26.0 x 6.0 cm (whole object) | RCIN 60250

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  • A tabua or presentation whale tooth, drilled and threaded onto a palm fibre cord. In Fijian culture teeth are traditionally collected from the lower jaws of beached whales, and since whale beachings are a relatively rare occurrence, the teeth are highly prized. This tooth retains its original pale cream colour but in some cases whales' teeth are rubbed with coconut oil and turmeric, or smoked, to turn them a rich tobacco colour. When threaded on a cord, as here, they are known as tabua, and they play an important role in traditional ceremonies of marriage, mourning and peace-making. Rather than being worn, they are exchanged by participants while formal speeches are made. They are also used by high-ranking chiefs to welcome guests on state occasions.

    Presented to Queen Elizabeth II by Fijian Chiefs during her Commonwealth visit to Fiji in February 1963. 
    Several tabua were presented on this occasion, including RCIN 32983.

  • Medium and techniques

    Bone, coconut fibre


    67.0 x 26.0 x 6.0 cm (whole object)

  • Alternative title(s)

    Presentation whale tooth

  • Place of Production