Kula

The Kula ring on the Trobriand Islands is a complex system of ceremonial exchange comprising precious objects, utilitarian objects, food, celebrations, and services of all kinds. The tribes take turns giving gifts, which must be surpassed the next time they meet.

Especially important is the exchange of necklaces and armbands, whose sole purpose is the prestige with which they are endowed. Since the group of islands is almost circular in shape, exchange takes place largely between neighboring islands. Soulava (necklaces) are exchanged in a clockwise direction. In the island mythology, this corresponds to the female cycle. The mwali (armbands) are exchanged in a counterclockwise direction, corresponding to the male cycle. Armbands and necklaces are passed on from one recipient to the next, remaining in possession of a tribe or a person for a predetermined length of time. By accepting the gift, the recipient is obliged to take care of it and to give something in return. The bracelets and necklaces are based on a complex system of ownership. They are possessions, pledges, loans, and a mandate all at the same time.

The goal is to have a bracelet or a necklace passed on through all of the islands until it returns to its place of origin. Handing over these objects of value is a sign of mutual trust and a means of social bonding.

© 2023 Georg Keller

© 2023 Georg Keller