|Red Kula Necklace|
One form of currency is the Kula. It is an exchange of items made of shells. Red shells are traded North and white shells are traded South. In this exchange, shells are the only physical things traded. Really, what all the traders want is prestige. The more one gives, the more others will respect them and thus they create relationships between islands.
This relationship is sometimes described as a marriage with how the traders are to treat each other. However, the trading relationships are passed down through the generations. When a man dies, his son inherits the trade. If the inheriting son is not as honorable or trustworthy as his father, the relationships will be pulled and he will lose all his families prestige.
The next currency is the most important. It is one that can be spent on anything at anytime. It is yams.
Trobriand men spend a large part of their lives growing yams. These yam gardens are the only gardens that they keep and are a sign of their manhood. When a boy becomes a teenager he works for a year in the yam garden of a neighbor. If he is a good worker and honest, the neighbor will give him yams in order to start his own garden.
Once a man has cultivated his yam crop to where he now has two gardens, one for yam money the other for yam food, he can find a wife. If he has a good garden, he will be able to marry a woman with many brothers (important for the next form of currency). After finding a wife, all his money yams belong to his wife. She decides how they are spent and when.
|Trobriand Yam House|
As soon as a man proves to be a good husband, with a yam house and everything, he can begin to collect the last form of currency from his in-laws. It is the best form of allowance: banana leaf skirts.
Banana leaf skirts, or doba, are purely ceremonial but very important. They are required to be worn at all birth and funeral rituals. The family hosting the event must supply all the guests with skirts. If they do not, they insult the guests. The number of skirts each person gets is also a determinant of a families wealth and goodwill.
|Trobriand Woman making a leaf skirt|
The way that the currency works on the Trobriand Islands encourages in-laws to get along and for men to be honest in their dealings.
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