Fijian Tooth Necklace

OBJECT TYPE
Necklace
LOCALITY
Fiji Islands
MATERIALS
Bone, fibre

DESCRIPTION

Known as ‘wasekaseka’, these split whale teeth necklaces are among Fiji’s most valuable of all traditional Fijian objects. Until the introduction of commercial whaling by Europeans in the early-mid 19th century, whale teeth were extremely scarce and therefore became the prerogative of chiefs and men of other high ranking status. Sewn onto sennit cords made of plant or coconut fibre and were worn closely around the neck.

This particular ‘wasekaseka’ is a dramatic and striking example of its type. Consisting of 26 long sperm whale teeth (the greater number of teeth, the more valuable the piece), they elegantly protrude upwards with the longest teeth positioned in the centre.

Whale teeth were bestowed on high-status individuals as gifts, for political support or as a gesture of solidarity and were valued as symbols of wealth and power. The teeth were also sometimes used as a means of exchange for logs and canoes, particularly between the Tongans and Fijians. Beautiful old patina.

Sold