Gunantuna (Tolai people) / Loloi (shell money rings) 2018 / Commissioned for APT9. The Taylor Family Collection. Purchased with funds from Paul, Sue and Kate Taylor through the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Foundation 2018 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © The artists

Gunantuna (Tolai People)
Loloi 2018

Not Currently on Display

Majestic rings constructed of cane encrusted with nassa shells are created by the Gunantuna peoples of East New Britain for use extensively in East New Britain in everyday life and to display in ceremonies relating to death, bride price and the initiation of young men. Known as Loloi (ring of shell money) these forms are constructed from bound canes of Diwarra (shell money) used by the Gunantuna as legal tender.

Gift and counter gift, the presentation back and forth of objects is in an enduring feature of many cultural groups in Papua New Guinea. A significant result of gifting is the binding of people together in relationships. In Gunantuna ceremonies, fathoms of Tabu, taken from a broken up Loloi are distributed amongst those attending solidifying connections.

This Loloi is completely wrapped in pandanus leaves to seal it as bank. The men who created the ring carefully count all of the Diwarra that enters the Loloi and like treasurers, must be present when it is opened during ceremony to confirm that the correct amount remains. Gifted to the Gallery from the Wawaga family bank, this Loloi received cane bindings over the pandanus, twisted in the shape of an eye. Like the circular shape of the Loloi itself these eyes suggest a form of security.

Migrating over centuries from nearby New Ireland, the Gunantuna (Tolai people) now live on the volcanic Gazelle Peninsula of New Britain island in Papua New Guinea. Best known for their male-only secret societies, the Gunantuna have a unique dual currency system that combines Papua New Guinea’s national tender (kina and toea) with shell money, known as Tabu or Diwarra.

Gideon Kakabin (1956–2018) was an elder of the Gunantuna (Tolai people). Initiated into Tabuan society, he held ceremonial status within the community and the rights to engage in Tolai ceremony and with material culture. These Tutana banks were created by a group of men, with female support, led by Gideon Kakabin.