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...