Lucy sells shell money for a living


KOKOPO market vendor Lucy Lorlmatam sells shell money to earn a living – the tolai currency called tabu.
It is a sacred currency and a key component of any traditional ceremony such as a wedding, birthday celebration, feast, group initiation, and resolution of disputes.
Lucy, whose only son John Lui is in Grade 11 at the Bialla Secondary School in West New Britain, is from Bitakapuk village in the Toma-Vunadidir local level government of Gazelle district in East New Britain.
She is one of the many tabu vendors at the craft market in Kokopo.
“I’m one of the regular tabu sellers. There are other women selling tabu.”
She can earn up to K500 a day when a big traditional ceremony or ritual comes up.
She charges K50 to K60 for the 10 param tambu and K25 to K30 for the 5 param tambu.
“When it comes to a normal day sale, I earn around K100 to K200 a day. I am committed to coming to the Kokopo market every work day to do my sales.”
She understands how important the traditional tolai shell money is to locals and people visiting.
It is her sole source of income to support her family and her son’s education.
“I do my sales every day as my core business as it helps me in earning a living. Whatever I get from my sales goes towards meeting my son’s school fees this year.”
She looks at her vending business as a fulltime job which is putting food on the table for her family. She knows that not everyone is well-educated and academically qualified to work in offices and government departments. Some such as her have to find something else to do.
“My encouragement to my fellow female colleagues is that please, don’t give up in doing your daily sales because you are the family’s breadwinner at the end of the day.”

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