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PNG Money - Traditional
via Papua New Guinea

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As already mentioned the official currency of Papua New Guinea (PNG - Kina) was so named because in Neo-Melanesian and in the Kuanua language it referred to the valuable pearl shell used widely in the Highlands as traditional money. Toea, is a Motu word, meaning valuable arm-shell and has had a wide traditional use in Coastal Papua for trading and brideprice payments.

Even though sea shells are no longer the official currency of Papua New Guinea as they were in some regions - sea shells were abolished as currency in 1933 - this heritage is still present in local customs; in some cultures, to get a bride, a groom must bring a certain number of golden-edged clam shells as brideprice. In other regions brideprice is paid in lengths of shell bead money, pigs, cassowaries and cash; elsewhere brideprice is unknown and it is brides who must pay dowry.

Apart from the traditional currencies mentioned above that gave their name to the official currency of PNG there are other forms of traditional currency used throughout PNG. For example there is Tabu used in New Britain and Bagi / Mwali used in Milne Bay. The people of the Trobriand Islands in Milne also use another form of traditional currency called Doba.

Doba is a very fragile currency because it is made from banana leaves. Not just any banana but one that has been used for centuries. It is said that bananas are scarce on the Trobriand Islands and this particular one is controlled by one clan.

Doba is used in exchange for food grown in the garden, food from a store, a live pig or a combination of these items. It is significant to the culture of the Trobriands. Doba is used in a traditional feast called sagali. A sagali accompanies ceremonial occasions such as death rites, commemorative feasts and competitions. The giving of Doba is also seen as a way to mourn those who have passed away.

Each woman in the village has a signature on their Doba which allows them to identify each one they receive

The Doba obtains its value by the amount of work needed to grow it, prepare it and all the underlying history which ties in with Trobriand beliefs.

Girls Making Doba -- http://travel.webshots.com/photo/2743674780083687246ZkiNLP

Image of a little girl carrying Doba -- http://www.flickr.com/photos/mytripsmypics/4021658415/in/photostream/

If you want to know more about the currency used in PNG the best site to visit is the Bank of PNG.

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Created 22 Feb, 1998
Updated 13 Jan, 2011
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