12 more treasures from Fiji : Fijian language week 2013

12 more treasures from Fiji : Fijian language week 2013

This is the last blog post for the inaugural Fiji language week with the theme Noqu Vosa, Noqu iYau Talei: My Language, My Treasure. As we have seen this week, Fiji’s history, people, cultures and natural world are represented in Te Papa in so many ways. Fiji stories are found in indigenous objects and objects made beyond Fiji’s shores. Fiji pops up across the museum in the sciences, art, photography, history and Pacific cultures collections. Here are 12 weird and wonderful things made, found or associated with Fiji.

  1. Fiji had giant iguanas? Check out this toothy remnant…According to Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand, it was “found in sediments on the main Fijian island of Viti Levu. This iguana would have measured around half a metre from the tip of its snout to its vent. It is thought that it became extinct shortly after human arrival in Fiji – around 3,000 years ago.”
Fiji Giant Iguana, Lapitiguana impensa; holotype
Fiji Giant Iguana, Lapitiguana impensa; holotype
  1. Keeping with the toothy theme, this stunning necklace is a wasekaseka. It is made from split sperm whale teeth threaded onto a string of coconut fibre. It is one of Fiji’s most treasured adornments worn by people of high rank.
Wäsekaseka (whale tooth necklace)
  1. This lethal looking weapon is a totokia. Its point is used like the beak of a pecking bird to dispatch enemy warriors. Did you know it has a connection to the movie Star Wars? You can read about it in another Te Papa blog, just click here.
Totokia (club)
  1. Here is another beaked fellow. A taxidermied specimen of a Red Shining parrot. The feathers of this bird and other parrots from Fiji were very precious.Red feathers were traded between Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.
Red Shining Parrot, Prospeia tabuensis atrogularis
  1. The men depicted in this wonderful photograph are a few of the many people that have worked the land around the Rewa River for generations. The image was taken by the New Zealand based Burton Brothers in 1884. Click to zoom in…
Labour Men, Rewa River, Fiji (photographers Burton Brothers 1884)
  1. This is a doll representing a Fiji policeman. It was probably made as a souvenir for sale to tourists in the 1960s. This doll is one of several at Te Papa collected by Augusta Bohmer who travelled extensively, including visits to Fiji on business. In the 1960,s flights to New Zealand from North America included a stop-over in Nadi.
Doll (Fiji policeman)

 7. Postcards are another product made for tourists from at least the late 1800s. Sometimes they featured amazing landscapes, activities or people. This postcard of a Fijian warrior was photographed in a studio and may have been one of thousands sold to tourists to Fiji over many decades.

Postcard – Fijian warrior
  1. This ghagra choli was the first one worn by New Zealand born Fiji Indian Aariel Naidu to a wedding in 2009. It represents Aariel’s Indian cultural heritage which is an important part of Aariel’s childhood and family life. It was collected in 2012 by a Te Papa history curator involved in the Growing Up in New Zealand project.
Ghagra choli (c.2009)
  1. This edition of the Fiji Times (from the history collection) is printed on masi (tapa cloth) instead of paper. Masi is made from from the bark of the paper mulberry plant, making this a remarkable and curious item. We’d love to discover the real story behind the headlines…


newspaper printed on tapa

10.This jungle knife was issued to Sapper Vivian McCredie while in the Western Pacific during WWII. ‘Mac’ was in the 23rd Field Company Engineers, of the NZ 3rd Division. He saw active service in the Treasury Islands (part of the Solomons), where he took part in the Mono Island landing. He was in Fiji and New Caledonia before this, where the division did garrison duty and training.

Jungle knife (1940s)

 11. This fern was collected in Fiji by botanists from Te Papa. It was found near the Nabukavesi-Namosi Road. Namosi District, Namosi Province in 2008. Te Papa botanists have been active in Fiji in recent years. You can read a blog about their work by clicking here.

Fern, Prosaptia contigua (G.Forst.) C.Presl

 12. These are the fossil remains of a foot of a giant megapode, a flightless bird that was once found on the island of Viti Levu on Fiji.  Its common name is the Fiji Giant Megapode, Gannet. With the arrival of humans in Fiji these birds became extinct…it’s amazing though what scientists can discover in a cave on Viti Levu.

Fiji Giant Megapode, Megavitiornis altirostris; holotype

1 Comment

  1. Hi Sean
    The name of the split-whaletooth necklace is wäsekaseka, NOT waseisei. The latter is a Lau term for a flower necklace.

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