New Britain Currency

31"Dia. x 4"Thick; 35.5"H with stand.

Large circular currency object made from numerous nassa shells on a continuous thread. This large and elegant object is a nassa shell currency ring from the Tolai people of East New Britain, Papua New Guinea. Called "Tabu," it is the preferred way to store and present fathom-long lengths of nassa shell strung on thin strips of cane. Such rings can be used in all sorts of exchange and compensation but most often presented at bride price and funeral ceremonies. At such events the rings are often cut up and lengths of nassa shells are dispersed to various relatives and friends. The people who receive it can then bind up the lengths into their own wheel of currency. The usual manner of earning nassa shells is by killing a pig and selling the meat. When a man wants to get married he must amass a wheel of 200-300 fathoms of tabu to present to his bride. Upon the death of her father the bride distributes the nassa shells at his funeral.

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