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E1567 Whale tooth necklace and label, 'wasekaseka', sperm whale teeth / coconut husk fibre (magimagi) / cardboard, maker unknown, Fiji, mid-19th century. Click to enlarge.

'Wasekaseka' whale tooth necklace with label

Made
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. Known as 'wasekaseka', these split whale teeth necklaces are among Fiji's best known types of jewellery that were typically made by Tongan and Samoan craftsmen who lived there. They were sewn onto sennit cords made of plant or coconut fibre and were worn closely around the neck.

This …

Summary

Object No.

E1567

Object Statement

Whale tooth necklace and label, 'wasekaseka', sperm whale teeth / coconut husk fibre (magimagi) / cardboard, maker unknown, Fiji, mid-19th century

Physical Description

Necklace comprising twenty-six sperm whale's teeth, cream in colour, pierced through the top and suspended from a length of plaited fibre. The longest teeth are positioned in the centre with the shorter ones at either side. The teeth are concave in shape with pointed tips and smooth, polished surfaces. There are also two single whale teeth and an original Museum object label accompanying the object.

Production

Made

Notes

The 'wasekaseka' is made up of the larger teeth of the sperm whale which have been split lengthwise and then polished. The necklaces were typically made by Tongan and Samoan craftsmen, who lived in Fiji. They were sewn onto sennit cords made of plant or coconut fibre and fitted closely around the neck.

Before the arrival of Europeans and the onset of commercial whaling, obtaining whale teeth was difficult since it depended on the accidental stranding of whales on shore. With the introduction of new tools by the Europeans, especially in the first half of the 19th century, access to whale teeth and the production of these types of necklaces became more widespread.

History

Notes

The 'wasekaseka' evolved from the 'vuasagale' necklaces, which were stubbier in shape; comprising the smaller teeth of the sperm whale before they had been split.

Source

Credit Line

Purchased 1892

Acquisition Date

26 October 1892

Cite this Object

Harvard

'Wasekaseka' whale tooth necklace with label 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 19 January 2022, <https://ma.as/227574>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/227574 |title='Wasekaseka' whale tooth necklace with label |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=19 January 2022 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}