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photograph of current display in the Grand Vestibule

A display highlighting the interaction between the monarchy and the wider world

Fiji

Tabua 1800 - 1953

RCIN 74624

Grand Vestibule, Windsor Castle

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The Queen has visited Fiji five times, both as a crown colony and, since 1970, as an independent member of the Commonwealth. A key element of all such visits is the presentation of gifts, which often reflect local craftsmanship in order to celebrate the diversity of the Commonwealth’s member states.

A tabua or presentation sperm whale tooth suspended by a cord of plaited sinnet at each end. 


In Fijian culture teeth are traditionally collected from the lower jaws of beached whales, and since whale beachings are a relatively rare occurrence, the teet

Tabua ©

In Fiji, teeth are collected from the lower jaws of beached whales. Since whale beachings are a relatively rare occurrence, the teeth are highly prized. In some cases they are rubbed with coconut oil and turmeric or smoked to turn them a rich tobacco colour. When threaded on a cord, they are known as tabua, and play an important role in 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. 

These two tabua were presented to Queen Elizabeth II by Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba during her official visit to Fiji, 17–19 December 1953.