The Fiji Museum - Virtual Museum


This civatabua breastplate is one of a handful of surviving masterpieces produced to be worn by Fijian (and possibly Tongan) chiefs. The split whale tooth plates from which it is made are butt-jointed at their edges, while their borders are pierced obliquely from the back by pairs of fine, intercepting holes which meet at their abutting edges. The lashings binding the plates pass though these holes and are fastened internally with Samoan canoe builder's knots. None of the holes pierce the smooth front of the breastplate and no lashing is visible from the front either. It is not known when breastplates of this exceptional design were first produced, however, Ma'afu brought one to Fiji with him when he came to build canoes in Lau in the 1840s and commented that they were heirlooms even in his youth. The civatabua is 16.5cm in height and 18.5cm wide.

The back view of this civatabua shows its original colour, along with the intricate network of intercepting pairs of lashing holes (the full detail of which can only be seen through x-ray).

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