The Fiji Museum - Virtual Museum

Raravono Salusalu

Known as "Raravono Salusalu", this early example of a civavonovono, or composite breastplate, shares several features with one belonging to Tanoa, Vunivalu of Bau in the early 1800s. It is composed of a central core made of civa (black-lipped pearl shell), inlaid and surrounded by plates split from sperm whale teeth. The whale tooth plates have been inset into the huge pearl shell base and lashed to each other and to the shell through pairs of converging holes bored into their back surfaces. The star and crescent inlays are typical Tongan motifs seen on breastplates, clubs and headrests, although their significance is not understood. Breastplates of this early type were suspended from the neck by a pair of strings fastened to the back of the whalebone or pearl shell and fastened at the back of the warrior's neck. A cord which ran across the back of the breastplate was fastened to these strings, its ends being passed around the wearers torso to be tied behind his back and to stop the breastplate bouncing around during dancing and combat. The Raravono Salusalu was presented to the Fiji Museum by Ratu Ilaitia Roratu Balenaivalu of the yavusa Waimaro, eastern highlands of Viti Levu. Height: 26cm; Width: 25.5cm.

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