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Object: Tanoa fai`ava (kava bowl)

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Title Tanoa fai`ava (kava bowl)
Production Unknown, 1800s, Samoa
Materials wood
Classification ceremonial objects, mixing bowls
Dimensions Overall: 212mm (Height)
Credit line Gift of Mrs Louisa Kronfeld, 1939
Registration number FE010512

This is a tanoa fai'ava, a wooden bowl used in the preparation of a beverage made from the roots of the kava plant. The roots are crushed into a powder-like form and mixed in the bowl with water. Kava, or `ava, as it is known in Samoa, can be served informally, although its most important use is in chiefly meetings and ceremonies.

Manufacture and design
Historically, the manufacture of tanoa fai'ava was a specialised task and certain villages in Samoa acquired a reputation for producing quality work. Older forms of tanoa fai `ava have four legs (like this one), whereas most tanoa fai'ava seen today have many legs, which are either round or square in section and usually set very close together. Today's tanoa fai'ava are still made in a range of sizes, big enough to serve large formal gatherings or small enough to be portable and popular with tourists. The elegant form and lines of tanoa fai `ava make them a popular gift and souvenir. They are one of the most enduring icons of Samoan hospitality and culture.

This tanoa fai'ava is part of a collection presented to Te Papa by Dr Moe Kronfeld on behalf of his mother, Louisa Silviera (1865-1939), and cousin of the Samoan leader Mata`afa Iosefo.

Related information

Disclaimer: This information was created from historic documentation, and may not necessarily reflect the best available knowledge about the item. Some collection images are created for identification purposes only and may not be of reproduction quality. Some images are not available due to copyright restrictions. If you have information or questions about objects in the collection, contact us using our enquiry form. You can also find out more about Collections Online.