Tabu shell money of the Tolai society in East New Britain, Papua New Guinea

Buying a Coke with Shell Money

Whilst the modern world is surveying fluctuation and investment opportunities of cryptocurrencies and ditching cashiers in favor of self-service checkouts, the remote province of East New Britain in Papua New Guinea is about to establish several culture bank outlets for easier trading with ‚Tabu Shell-Money’. It’s been exactly 43 years ago when PNG claimed its independency from Australia, and even today, Shell-Money is deeply anchored in the Tolai culture – it tightens family bonds as well as business cycles. ‘Tabu’ is used on an every day’s basis to barter essential goods in the villages, moreover, it plays a significant role during all cultural activities. Without possession of Shell-Money, there wouldn’t be any initiations, weddings, funeral ceremonies, pig feasts, nor a rigid hierarchy within the Tolai society. Since this tribal art is immensely precious by virtue of the laborious efforts of the making, ‘Tabu’ may even solve a dispute at the traditional court, or it simply shows great respect to a payee. In short, ‘Tabu’ is the essence of the Tolai’s domestic relations and can’t be replaced with any paper. Decades after the introduction of PNG’s new cash system, as well as ATMs and loan firms, the Tolai are still genuinely affiliated with their marine treasures whilst they’re moving slowly from a self-sufficient lifestyle into the money-driven economy. Hence, they must learn about entrepreneurship and how to juggle with both – the Kina notes & Toea coins, as well as their official complementary currency – ‘Tabu’.