Gunantuna (Tolai people)

Gunantuna (Tolai people)

Led by: Gideon KAKABIN, Artists: Isa APELIS, Jack APELIS, Kini BALNATA, William M KAKABIN, Ben PARAI, Msisiel VAIRA, Tivila WARTIR, Support: Judy Kakabin, Catechist Kaum, Ia Gogoe, Ia Kamara, Ia Delin, Ia Vodia, Osiat Baining, David Tamtu and Tougus Balnata

Migrating over centuries from New Ireland, the Tolai or Gunantuna people live on the volcanic Gazelle Peninsula of New Britain Island in Papua New Guinea. Best known for their powerful, male secret societies, the Gunantuna have a unique dual-currency system that combines Papua New Guinea’s national tender of kina and toea with a shell money system called Tabu or Diwarra. Comprising nassa shells strung onto elegant canes known as fathoms, Diwarra is legal tender throughout East New Britain, as well as being used for ceremonial transactions such as bride price, wealth payments in death rites, and society initiation fees. These canes are also formed into wheels called Loloi which are sealed with leaves to both keep the Loloi dry and declare their role as a bank. The highest value of Loloi are the majestic wheels known as a Tutana, displayed as symbols of wealth and status. In contrast to Western economic systems, Tabu embodies an important indigenous relationship-based economic system, wherein the accumulation of wealth is based on and reflects social connections and merit.

Gideon Kakabin (1956-2018) was an elder of the Gunantuna (Tolai peoples). Initiated into the Tabuan society, he held ceremonial status within the community and the rights to engage in producing and presenting objects associated with Tolai ceremony and material culture.

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