19th–20th century
Artist Unidentified, Papuan

Object Place: Fiji, Melanesia


Tusk length: 15 cm (5 11/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Whale's tooth, coconut fiber cord

On View

Arts of Asia, Oceania, and Africa Gallery (Gallery 177)


Africa and Oceania, Jewelry


Necklaces and neck bands

Whale teeth (tabua) have a very high spiritual value to Fijians. Tabua are used as important presentation items in spiritual as well as worldly matters. Imbued with deep meaning, tabua were able to remedy almost all infractions, and also had the power to make agreements and requests binding. Thus, chiefs gave tabua as diplomatic gifts during rituals to seal alliances and pacts. As a sign of respect to the recipients, tabua are presented on various occasions such as the reception of a king, at weddings, funerals, births as well as virtually all state occasions.


About 1960/1961, during a Tabua ritual in Fiji, presented to Governor Carlton Skinner (b. 1913 - d. 2004), Boston; 2002, year-end gift of Carlton Skinner and Solange Skinner to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 22, 2003)

Credit Line

Gift of Governor Carlton Skinner and Solange Skinner