Surviving on Shell money making  - Solomon Star News

Surviving on Shell money making 

22 April 2019
Susan Ilabae

Traditional values and ethics in the Solomon Islands is going to extinct from the provinces due to the influence of western culture that was brought to the country by European explorers and traders.

But for the people of Malaita, money making is still preserved.

Shell money making is one of the daily job for the people of Langalanga and Lau lagoons in Malaita province. 

Many young boys and girls there have the influence in making shell money for selling, depending on its sizes.

Makers of shell money were very creative, active and patient thou it is a hard work. 

The process of making shell money is not passed or inherit from bloodline but through look and learn - young people of the Langalanga and Lau Lagoons just look at their elders and get the idea at the same time.

Shell money is one of the important and valuable stuff in the culture of malaita province. It is used in exchange for compensation to solve land disputes between two parties, head hunting or tribal wars in the past and marriage or bride price.

Even in the present days, many people still use it in exchange for goods if they do not have any money to pay for their household needs. Shell money can sometimes be used as a token of appreciation for people who help a lot during difficulties in the family or community to show appreciation. 

Shell money was made from a kind of shell in the sea called ‘Romu’ and the shell is too rare to find in some parts (seas) of the country. The working process needs more effort and depends much on ones willingness to its completion because it needs more time, due to the many process required.

However, young people these days are not interested in making shell money because they are influenced in social activities as drinking alcohol, taking in illegal drugs and involving in criminal activities; yet shell money is the only stuff that will solve their problems.

Looking into the future, nothing is impossible through hard work and challenges that one can encounter in the years to come.

Susan Ilabae is a Shell money make and she never gives up in making shell money because she knew that it is the only thing she earns money from.

Susan ilabae is from Talakali, a part of the well-known LangaLanga lagoon. She started making shell money when she was seven years old.

At that time, she was attending primary school. She treated shell money making as the top priority for her daily survival.

Langalanga lagoon is one of those places in Malaita that is scarce in land for gardening and people only rely on seafood for income and consumption, therefore each family have to be creative and struggle to meet the needs of the family.

Every day after school, Susan used to sit with the necklaces, earrings and shell money at Auki market. She is doing this to earn money for her family’s evening meal. 

“I tried my best to reach my target for our family consumption every evening,” she said looking at the far end of the market, when interviewed.

Susan tried her best to pay for her school fees and through her struggle; she obtained a form one placement at Betikama Adventist College. She soon left school from form two in 1986 due to lack of financial support.

The challenges she faced gives her strength to move on in marketing and forget about the social influences in the capital, Honiara. 

Susan then got married to a boy from her village at Talakali and they have four kids. Susan said that having kids has surely made life much more expensive for her family. 

Every afternoon after school, her kids used to dive in search for shells in the sea and in the lagoons to make shell money and necklaces for their school fees.

“Being sea hunters is the everyday routine for the kids in Langalanga lagoon, so it is normal for my kids to search for shells and dive for fish to sell in the market for income,” she said stretching her back against the chair.

Susan is a very creative and courageous woman.  

She is also very creative in making earrings from different objects, finger rings from turtle’s shell and many things that she can earn money out of it.

 She is active in her role as a mother and always making sure that her children have something to eat in the evenings and mornings. Living in an urban area, out of the money she earned in marketing, she finally built her house at Lungga.

“I also market cooked foods in the central market and that helps a lot in the urban living in terms of income for bus fares for children,” said Susan smiling in relief. 

Waking up before dawn, Susan usually prepares food for her children and making them ready for school.

 She then leaves the house at 6:00am in the morning to the central market with her products for marketing, and return home on 7:00pm late in the evening. This is normal for her in her everyday life since she started the business.

Apart from marketing she also attended a food hygiene program conducted by the Honiara City Council (HCC).

Susan also went overseas to the Pacific Islands of Papua New Guinea and Guam through an agreement made with a friend overseas. 

“Marketing overseas is very good because you earn a lot of money and the traditional products or art of our country is beautiful and unique.

“The products depends on the sizes of each shell money for instance; Tafuliaea costs $1,000 plus and necklaces with design of names on it costs $ 500 and earrings cost $20-30 dollars,” she said pointing at the displayed items.

She added marketing depends on the demand of customers because the marketing outlet in the central market is very slow. 

Susan said through marketing, she did save enough money to pay for her children’s school fees as well as to pay for power and water; which is the two most important things in the urban centre.

From the quality design and styles of creativity, Susan is one of the proud and patient mothers who never gave up on the challenges she faced but fight for the future of her children.

Susan said that the difficulties she endured are the pathway and strength that gives her the courage and smile on her face.

With a deep breath, Susan said that her journey in marketing does not end yet unless her kids secured well-paid jobs for themselves.

In addition, it’s only her creativity that helps her a lot in earning better income for the family and supporting her kids in school, through the paying of school fees and stationary.