I was minded to think of life in Papua New Guinea when I wrote the story called Big Wash which was published in the Writers’ Abroad anthology titled Foreign Encounters. The story details the eccentricities of expatriate life and is based on my experiences of living in Wabag, Enga Province in the early 1980s.
Something about the Highlands of Papua New Guinea has never left me and The Mountain by Drusilla Modjeska took me right back to Wabag. Although I don’t own any of the bark cloth that is mentioned in the book, I do have one of these:
This is a kina shell necklace, made from Gold Lip Shell and drilled with two holes to allow it to be worn. When the Leahy brothers first discovered the Highlands during the 1930s, their search was for gold which the Highlanders willing exchanged for pearl shells. These shells are valued all over Papua New Guinea but particularly in the Highlands where contact between tribes traditionally brought the shells very slowly from the coast to the mountain valley.
Papua New Guinea currency is also called the kina but the shells continue to be used in traditional ceremonial payment.
I also have one of these: