Single whale-tooth ‘Tabua’
Fiji, 19th Century
Sperm whale tooth with coconut fibre cord
tooth: 20 cm long
Provenance: Collection of Morris Pinto (1923-2009), and thence by descent17
A presentation piece, Tabua were traditionally given as gifts of atonement or esteem and were important in negotiations between rival chiefs. Whale’s teeth were closely associated with divine power and the chiefs as embodiments of divine ancestors.
Fijian Until the early 19th century, Fijians only acquired whales' teeth from beached whales who died from natural causes, as they did not hunt or kill whales. However, by the early 19th century, the whaling trade gave Fijians access to plentiful amounts of whale’s teeth.