Learn about Tabua

A tabua is a sacred object in Fijian society. For the last 150 years they have been made from a whale’s tooth, but prior to this were made from highly polished timber.

Ceremonial tabua have holes drilled through the tip and the butt of the tooth, through which a braided cord, made from sennit (plaited strands of dry fibre or grass) is attached.

To make tabua, the whale teeth are polished and sometimes rubbed with coconut oil and turmeric to darken them. In some cases the teeth are smoked in a small tent-like structure covered in bark cloth to turn them a rich tobacco colour.

The giving of a tabua is seen as gesture of goodwill, respect or loyalty from the persons presenting it, and a ceremonial ritual is always carried out during the presentation. It is often presented at ceremonies associated with births, deaths, marriages, the naming of a child, and also the condoning of the violation of traditional Fijian law.

When the whalers first visited Fiji, they brought ashore whale’s teeth to use for trading purposes. They were of a similar shape and size to the wooden tabua that were in use at the time, and so the whale's tooth was adopted as the material for tabua. more...
These items are not for sale and the descriptions, images and prices are for reference purposes only.

Fijian Tabua - Ceremonial Whale Tooth Polished sperm whale tooth with two pierced holes binding attached. Rich creamy golden patina. Length 17 cm, Width 5 cm. (tooth only). Provenance: T. Clemence Collection, New Zealand

Two Fijian Tabua whales tooth chieftains necklaces (1 with rope), 19th century. 16 cm & 18 cm.

Three ancient Fijian tabua ornaments, all are carved to get the fine shape that was desired by chiefs. All have a deep ancient patina and piercings for hanging the tabua, one has the original fibre necklace attached. Provenance: These tabua were a gift to

A 19th century Fijian sperm whale tabua, one side hole chipped, 16 cm wide

Tabua, Fijian chieftains whales tooth pendant (no coir), 19th century patina. 13 cm

A 19th century Fijian tabua, the natural curved whale's tooth with polished finish, multiple hour glass drilled holes to one end, the tip with single hole broken away. Length 13 cm

A Fijian Whalestooth necklace (tabua). Plaited vegetable fibre neck chain

A Fijian whale tooth tabua, the undrilled tooth with typical turmeric staining, old fractures to the ivory at the tip. Length 17 cm.

Tabua whale's tooth necklace. Remnants of original cord. Length 14 cm

Fijian tabua, small polished tooth of a sperm whale, with two pierced holes for attachment. Length 11 cm. Width 4.4 cm

Fijian tabua, marine ivory tooth with attached fibre necklace. Fiji. Length 14 cm. Width 5 cm

Pair of Fijian tabua pierced holes to ends and with braided sennit-fibre cord attached. Polished patina. Length 15 cm. Width 5 cm; length 13.5 cm. Width 1.5 cm

Fijian tabua - ceremonial whale tooth polished sperm whale tooth with two pierced holes to end for attachment. Rich creamy golden patina. Missionary writing inscribed to one side 'VR2'. Length 11 cm. Width 4.5 cm

Fijian tabua - ceremonial whale tooth polished sperm whale tooth with two pierced holes to end for attachment incised cross decoration to base. Rich creamy golden patina. Length 14 cm. Width 5.5 cm

Fijian tabua - ceremonial whale tooth polished sperm whale tooth with two pierced holes to end for attachment. Rich creamy golden patina. Length 14 cm. Width 5.5 cm

Fijian tabua - ceremonial whale tooth, a small but refined tooth with two pierced holes to end for attachment. Rich, creamy-golden patina. Rope binding attached. Tabuas are not worn but are presented at important ceremonies, including weddings, births and

An old Fijian whale tooth tabua, with attractive turmeric patination and old string

A Fijian tabua whale tooth has a very smooth patina. Tooth. Length 15 cm.

An old Fijian tabua whale's tooth pendant, rich old dark tan patina, a name scratch carved to one face, original drilled suspension holes with box woven cord attached, the cord broken. Length of tooth 17 cm

A good 19th century Fijian tabua whale's tooth pendant of elliptical curved form with flat top, rich old dark patina with old scratch carved name 'Vilike', original drilled suspension holes to either end, later woven sennit cord attached. Length 19 cm

Fijian tabua whales tooth. Old patination, drilled both ends.

A rare Fijian 'Tabua' incised whale's tooth 19th century a Fijian tabua is a sperm whale tooth neck ornament attached to a looped sinnet fibre chain (Magimagi), they were a highly prized and valuable possession and were given as gifts for atonement or as a

A good Fijian tabua, with aged patina and worked suspension holes to top and side. Length 17.5 cm

Tabua. Fijian whale's tooth pendant on woven fiber necklace

Tabua. Fijian whale's tooth pendant on woven fiber necklace. Engraved names.

An old Fijian tabua (whale's tooth pendant) with an orange/brown traditional stained finish, complete with a decorative plaited cord of square section form. Length of tooth 15 cm

Two chest ornaments (tabua), of whale tooth, with pierced terminals, one with rope cord attached, glossy patina, Fiji, 12-17 cm (2)

Three chest ornaments (tabua), of whale tooth, with pierced terminals, glossy patina, Fiji, 13-16 cm (3)

A 19th century Fijian sperm whale tooth tabua, of good patination, plain, with two drilled suspension holes near the tip and a single suspension hole at the base. Provenance: acquired by the vendor's grandfather who was a trader living in Fiji during latte

Tabua. Fiji. Chieftain's whale tooth pendant. 19th century tooth with holes for fibre cord (not present).

Tabua. Fijian Chieftain's whale tooth necklace (tabue) with original fibre cord, lovely patina.

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