Shell money demonstration
Shell Money is the traditional currency system of Torba; and while the economy now trades in vatu, Shell Money is still able to be used as currency throughout the Province.
While Shell Money continues to be used in areas of the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea, Torba is the only place in Vanuatu where shell money is created and used. Shell money itself is strings of laboriously shaped shell flakes that are strung together and whose worth is measured by length.
Creating Shell Money is undertaken by the women of the community and Monic George is one of the last women in Vanuatu who still create the currency. Making Shell Money is incredibly labour intensive and it can take days just to shape a single shell!
After collecting the shells from the nearby reef, Monic will show you how she pierces, shapes and sands the shells using a local knife and black sand from Vanualava. She will also show you examples of finished shell money pieces – some which are hundreds of years old, which you can help to string together.
Shell Money is particularly important to the community on Rah Island as it is also the site of the Shell Money Bank which serviced all the villages of the Banks Islands. According to kastom, everyone’s money was protected by a snake. Due to a recent natural disaster the entrance to the Shell Money bank has been sealed and no one has yet been able to find a way in, however you can visit the site of the bank on the Rah Island Kastom Tour.
If you wish, you can purchase your own length of Shell Money from Monic. The ultimate Rah Island souvenir!