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Collecting seashells as a full time job

Seashells represent an important slice in the history and lifestyle of the coastal regions in Papua New Guinea, because of its uses. They are cast-off as body ornaments for traditional sing-sings, instruments for music, medium of exchange, a mode of communication, cooking utensils and more.

At present, a number of women in the village of Porebada, Central Province collect seashells from their shores, modify and sell them as a means of income to sustain their families.

These women re-define seashells into stylish hair clips, door curtains, earrings, bracelets, macramé crafts and more of which they sell on road sides, to retail outlets and even small private companies for as low as K2 .

Porebada Women crafting with seashells

Selling seashells also helped them to meet other family commitments. “Out of what I do, I have paid bride-prices and I am ready to pay for the next one” said Heni Arua, a local seller.

Heni Arua also carves Lagatoi models, a doubled hulled sailing raft traditionally used in the Hiri Trade cycle.  Ms Heni says with the help of her husband and children, it takes about two weeks for her to be able to finally sell her products to her customers.

Manoka  Gorogo, a self-taught earring maker, explained to the crew about the process by which she makes the shells lose its original colour and turn to an elegant light brown colour.

Even though the village is a ride away from the Nation’s capital, exposure to genuine buyers remains a challenge for these women.

Creative seashell earrings sold at a craft market

Bede Arua, is a first timer. She received her motivation after she showcased her auntie’s craft at a show held in Kwikila.

“A lot of women do these, but how will we find genuine buyers” Bede Arua says.

Meanwhile, the President for Kairuku Hiri Women Council, Ms Bono Nariki says her team in the province is working on organizing and seeking sponsors to host talent shows that should expose and empower unskilled women in the village to be innovative.

By Rosemary Yambune

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