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Friday, March 17, 2006

A note on the Shell Money (Tafuliae) that is used in To'abaita

The traditional Langalanga shell money, called 'tafuliae', which is used widely in North Malaita for brideprice (Rau) and compensation (Keketoa) is made up of 10 strings of shell disks threaded together in particular patterns made up of a mixture of red, black, white and brown colours. These strands of shell range in length from 1.8 to over 2 m. The 'tafuliae' is the end product of a long, labour-intensive process that has many steps.

There are four different types of shells used to make the red, black, orange and white disks in the tafuliae. A red-lipped rock oyster called romu (Chama pacifica) provides red coloured disks. Applying heat to a small white shell known locally as kee (Beguina semi-orbiculata) makes orange disks. Black disks are taken from large horse mussel shells called kurila (Atrina vexillum). Thick white disks are obtained from a ridged cockle known as kakadu (Anadara granosa). Occasionally a fourth shell, kekete, which is very rarely used, is interchanged with kurila.

The above picture is a detail of old, finely cut, 'tafuliae' shell money with turtle shell spacer from North Malaita. Each of the ten strands is about 30 inches long (76 cm). Cultural groups have different configurations and names for these types of shell strings.

Strings of shell disks or beads are often valued by the fathom which equals 7 feet or around 2 metres. Each string of shell disks at 7 feet length would value at around SB$60 (US$8)and the whole 'tafuliae' would be around SB$600 (US$80). Regardless of that, the 'tafuliae' and other traditional valuables are still required for ceremonial payments in North Malaita.

Sources: Solomon Islands Peoplefirst Network (Honiara)&
Pacific Regional Environment Programme (Samoa)

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