This is the Tolai traditional shell money called ‘tambu’ or sometimes as ‘tabu’. It is not only used as a medium for exchange of goods and services but also plays a very vital role in the Tolai traditional society when dealing with other customary obligations like settling disputes and ‘payback’, bartering for produce, bride price, as well as being regarded as a symbol of prestige, and also a customary method of acquiring land. Like other provinces in the New Guinea Islands region that have various shells used as money by the indigenous traditional societies, one of the smallest would be the rock snail of New Britain. This one in particular holds specific value to the Tolai people of East New Britain Province.


Tolai Country, East New Britain
Shells and vegetable fiber, diameter 22 cm

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