Item number: 5620
A Fine 19th Century Fijian Ceremonial Whale Tooth, ‘Tabua’
Ex English Private Collection
The Fijian ‘Tabua’, (pronounced tambua), was considered the most spiritually powerful and important cultural item to the islands inhabitants. Made from the highly prized teeth of the Sperm Whale, they underwent a laborious process of smoothing, polishing, oiling, smoking and perforating prior to suspension on a carefully braided chain of sinnet, (‘magimagi’). ‘Tabua’ were used diversely and to great effect, respectfully exchanged in allegiances or perhaps offered as a gift in return for favours, acquiescence or atonement, the ceremony created a sacred bond, bound by tradition between the giver and recipient by their acceptance.
The ‘Tabua’s’ influential nature has undoubtedly been instrumental in shaping key events in the social history of Fiji, accompanying great decisions, including war, peace and individual assassination. They were also given or exchanged at more personal occasions such as marital unions, births, deaths and business transactions
These beautiful artefact’s often display a highly attractive warm, mellow patina to their surfaces, acquired from the techniques applied during their creation in addition to the effects of protracted human contact from a long history of successive ownership. Now encountered many years and usually great distance from their origins, their power and presence remains, their very being, somehow imbued with the often dramatic events they have borne silent witness to.
This superb example still retains its thick 19th Century sinnet chain, the tooth probably earlier, showing signs of great age in its degree of wear, patina and multiple suspension perforations.
Tabua: Diameter: 28cm, Overall Height: 39cm (Including stand)
Tooth: Length:14cm, Width: 5cm