ν. Portrait of Vah-Ta-Ah and associated Tabua

By George Baxter, 1857
Size: 13 x 9 cm

Vah-Ta-Ah was the daughter of Cakobau, the “cannibal king” of Fiji. She was described as “a cruel and vicious cannibal”, until she was converted by Wesleyan missionaries, and baptized as “Lydia”. She was born in the same year as Queen Victoria, who, while Princess, corresponded with her. The amethyst necklace she wears was sent to her by the young Princess Victoria.

The following dialogue took place at the presentation ceremony:

MISSIONARY: “I am to present you with this beautiful necklace, a present from our Princess Victoria”.

LYDIA: “Thank you”.

MISSIONARY:A condition of this gift is that you have given up cannibalism. Lydia, have you truly stopped eating people?”

LYDIA: “Yes…(slight pause)…except for the occasional snack”.