Search       Advanced Search | Help
Browse | Tours
 

ROM Images

Register | Login

Kina shell or valuable currency
Highlands
Kina shell, fibre, pigment
Centimetres: 35.5 (length)
1920-1940
Area of Origin: Melanesia, Highlands Region, Papua New Guinea
Shreyas and Mina Ajmera Gallery of Africa, the Americas and Asia-Pacific
Given in Loving Memory of Marta Carlsen
990.248.49.1
ROM2004_947_3
 

Description: This crescent shaped object is made from the Gold Lip Shell (Pinctada maximums), and is an integral part of the payment and exchange system in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Irian Jaya (Indonesia.) It is called “kina” in PNG, which is also the name for the modern currency of that country. The kina shell is also a personal adornment used for ceremonial occasions. A woven cord of plant or animal fibres is fastened to holes drilled on both ends of the shell. In the Sepik River Region, these cords were decorated with Nassa Shells. When used in an exchange, a kina shell may be dyed with natural red or ochre colours, and mounted on a display board called “moka”. This custom is mostly prevalent in the Mount Hagen area of the Highlands of New Guinea. As valuable items, large kina shells have their own names. They are preserved in specially woven bark bags. During ceremonial occasions, the shell is presented in its bag. Until the early 1960s, kina shells had a fixed exchange value of 12 Australian shillings per pair. A full-grown pig was worth about 8 shells, depending on the region. After PNG’s independence in 1975, kina shells lost their formal monetary value. In the Highlands of PNG, they are still used as currency and are a valued item of wealth and ornament. Additional Reading: 1. Strathern, Andrew. 1971. The Rope of Moka: Bigmen and Ceremonial Exchange in Mount Hagen, New Guinea. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Exhibit History: Shreyas and Mina Ajmera Gallery of Africa, the Americas and Asia-Pacific, April 2008-present

Additional Reading:
1. Strathern, Andrew. 1971. The Rope of Moka: Bigmen and Ceremonial Exchange in Mount Hagen, New Guinea. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

© 2014 Royal Ontario Museum - All rights reserved | Privacy | Terms of Use | Credits | Contact Us