Movie: Tabua, whale tooth or not?

Peter Waqatairewa talks about Tabua, whale teeth, Fiji's most valuable cultural artefact.

© Australian Museum and Peter Waqatairewa
Finton Mahony
Peter Waqatairewa


The is the tabua, which is from the teeth of a sperm whale, and it is Fiji’s most valuable artefact. To give you an illustration of how valuable it is, in the olden days if one of the chiefs during the tribal warfare would like a rival to be killed, and he couldn’t do it himself, he’ll take this tabua to another tribe and ask them. And once they accept it they will go after that other chief.

It was presented in the 19th century from one chieftain to another chief, to kill an Australian missionary. That’s how important it is. It’s also used as a bride-price when families – they approach another family for a bride, they take a tabua. And if it’s accepted it’s the first stage of the ritual of getting married.

It can be used as anything, just like money. For land, purchase of land. Traditionally they approach for a piece of land, they present a tabua. That’s how important it is. It’s currency for life and death in Fiji.

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Tags pacific collections, Fiji, Tabua, whale tooth, Peter Waqatairewa, money, bride-price, currency, sharing stories, finton, artifact, pacific, sperm, teeth, intangible,