Marine ivory and coconut fibre
L. 14, 5 cm
Tabua pendant, Fiji Islands
H. 5 11/16 in
- Former collection Bertrand Goy
The tooth of the lower jaw of the sperm whale was a precious currency on some islands of the Fiji archipelago. When it was fitted with a cord, it was offered to obtain a favour or exchanged at weddings.
The specimen illustrated here has the originality of having been engraved in the manner of a scrimshaw by a sailor on board a whaleboat. The costume of the woman shown on this pendant could represent a fisherman's wife from a New England port in the second half of the 19th century.
It is difficult to know whether this object was acquired from a Fijian and engraved by a whaler or, conversely, fitted with a cord by an Ilian who would have exchanged the scrimshaw with a Western sailor.