Tabu (Shell money)
Papua New Guinea
North Solomons Province
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“Shellmoney is a very important part of TOLAI tradition, and is still being used today in our way of life –
when a baby is born,
a bride leaves her family for a new home,
when a man dies,
also to solve disputes and quarrels,
so shellmoney is still more important than anything money can buy.”
–Detuei Purpuruk, in a letter addressed to Arnold Young and Jenny Sebba, November 1984
Tabu is made from nassariidae shells, collected from the shore or sea floor before being dried in the sun. Once the top of the shell – with the curve – has been removed with pliers, the flattened pieces are threaded onto strips of rattan.
The tabu was gifted to Jenny Sebba and Arnold Young by Steamships Trading Department Employees in Kieta in 1984, and donated to the Museum of Tropical Queensland in 2015.