The golden Tabua - the symbol for Fijian Village Homestays
The word "tabua" comes from the words "Tabu ya" which means sacred.
A "tabua" is the tooth extracted from the lower jaw of a sperm whale. It is the most highly prized possession within Fijian culture. Presenting another person, family, or tribal group with a tabua is the ultimate symbol of respect, involving kava ceremonies that are unique to the Fiji Islands. The tooth is prepared by being scraped clean, sanded with coral sand, oiled then polished with the leaves of the masi ni tabua tree.
The polished tabua was often stained with cargo or tumeric to give it a deep orange colour. Alternatively this end result was obtained by smoking the tooth over a smouldering fire of sugar can or masawe roots. Once prepared the tooth was wrapped properly and put into a kato or basket with a polished stone called a "tina ni tabua". A plaited chord of magimagi or pandanus leaf was attached to each end of the tooth. Before the sperm whales the early Fijians used tabua made from the buabua or kura tree.
The tabua hanging from the wall of the houseof the Provinical Chief of Nadrau, Viti Levu
Tabua may not be removed from Fiji Islands.
Tabua giving plays an intrinsic role in the social and economic fabric of Fijian life. Tabua feature in births, deaths and marriages, in welcoming visitors, and requesting favours. They are used to seal contracts and alliances, and as a symbol of reconciliation in the settlement of disagreements.
Tabua are not to be bought or sold; they are simply circulated as gifts from the family, and tribe to tribe, passing from one generation to the next in an endless cycle of ceremony that keeps Fijian culture alive.