1 Ika 2007 20 mm. Dyed Mother of Pearl Shell
2 Ika 2007 25 mm. Dyed Mother of Pearl Shell
5 Ika 2007 30 mm. Dyed Mother of Pearl Shell
10 Ika 2007 30 mm. Dyed Mother of Pearl Shell
20 Ika 2007 35 mm. Dyed Mother of Pearl Shell
50 Ika 2007 40 mm. Dyed Mother of Pearl Shell
100 Ika 2007 50 mm. Dyed Mother of Pearl Shell
200 Ika 2007 60 mm. Dyed Mother of Pearl Shell
500 Ika 2007 70 mm. Dyed Mother of Pearl Shell
NOTES: Most handwritten in black ink but other colors used. Many varieties found. Dark colored mother of pearl is hand etched crudely. All 10 Ika are hand etched. A few etched in all values known to exist, but are considered rare. Ink colors other than black are considered hard to fund. A few in smaller sizes exist and a few 1,000 Ika coins reported and both are considered rare. Due to the handmade design, all coins vary somewhat.
All coins available. Please click WEB STORE for details.
1 Ika 2006 Handsigned
2 Ika 2006 Handsigned
5 Ika 2006 Handsigned
10 Ika 2006 Handsigned
20 Ika 2006 Handsigned
50 Ika 2006 Handsigned
100 Ika 2006 Handsigned
200 Ika 2006 Handsigned
500 Ika 2006 Handsigned
All notes sold out.
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My quest is the long forgotten spots on earth where civilization has not encroached on the traditional lifestyles of the immediate area. I've always loved discovering such places and had I the wealth to visit such places, I likely would. My discoveries must come through other's eyes. Such is the case for Abemana. My best source was an account of an avid traveler that supports his trips through freelance journalism. With his permission, I shall share segments here. Sean McKenzie offers the insight.
"I was on Palu'e having a beer with a couple of other avid explorers as the rain wet the fertile earth. Swapping stories, one adventurer told of an island by the name of Abemana. He said it was a place the rest of the world left behind. My intrigue was minimal, assuming he was speaking of Abemama in The Republic of Kiribati, certainly not so isolated and certainly a well documented past. My fellow traveler continued and my eyes soon lit up."
"He described Abemana as an island of about 4,000 acres and just a shade over 3,400 people. He described a rich soil that offered a virtual Garden of Eden for its simple people. An 'outlier', Abemana is a Polynesian island in the eastern South Pacific. Their isolation resulted in a language crafted on the island and a bevy of customs and traditions one only learns of through the diaries of missionaries who visited these strange lands when the world was a much larger place."
"My mind was set. Abemana went on my list of 'must see' spots dotting the globe. It would take nearly two years to secure all the details and string them together for a smooth passage to Abemana. During this time, nuggets of insight were passed along and Abemana took on quite a mystique in my mind."
"I learned of the traditional lifestyle, the sexual habits and a bit of the legacy that is fervently preserved. I learn of the lack of medical facilities and all the modern world offered. I began to worry a bit for my health and took the needed precautions. My previous escapades taught me to be cautious of taboos and such.."
"Arriving in Port Moresby was just the beginning of a string of travel connections I would rifle through before the six hour trip via a small wooden motorboat to Abemana."
Abemana is a 3,954 acre island of volcanic origin. Its interior is more rugged, rising to 135 meters and containing two small lakes. The volcanic origins have left the island with a number of small streams and a quality fresh water lens, allowing much fresh water. The rich volcanic soils grow about any fruit or vegetable one can imagine. Even the shoreline teems with fish in the short shelf that drops off to fairly deep ocean depths. In short, it is a land of plenty so long as the tropical cyclone does not rip across the island.
Abemana has the typical tropical climate. Bountiful rains and warm temperatures are common throughout the year, tempered by a fresh tradewind. Abemana lies outside the normal path of tropical cyclones, but every few years one passes close enough to affect the island. In 2005 one powerful cyclone took a path taking it right over the island. As we reach 2009, Abemana has almost entirely recovered. The fact the islanders so clearly know their past, the wisdom of their relatives had been passed on to minimize the destruction and prevent the loss of life. One man said the families had wind houses because their elders passed on the need for families to build them and stock them for the peril of the wind. Abemana recovered on its own resources.
Wind Houses are small single room huts built to withstand tropical cyclones. A tarp of intertwined leaf is covered in lava rock kept in place by hardened mud in a sloping effect to withstand the onset of sudden downpours and high winds. The islanders claim this spared them during the 2005 cyclone.
Abemana is caught somewhere between nations. Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and, I suppose,
Solomon Islands, could state claim to the islands. It is factual to say all three of these nations provide no support for the island. There is no supply ship. There is no government funded school. There is no outside support whatsoever from any government. Missionaries did come to Abemana about 85 to 90 years ago, easily converting the population to Christianity. Still today, the island supports four Churches. The Churches have obtained textbooks and supplies for educating the children.
The people are light-skinned Polynesians. They proclaim Christianity but many traditions counter to Christian teachings exist. Traditional dress means women are topless. Youth, both the boys and girls, regularly visit the various villages during evening hours to meet the opposite sex. It is common for the youth to have numerous sexual partners. Even the youth bathe in the many pools of fresh water found on the island, normally in daylight. Adults tend to bathe in these same pools by in the evening. Traditional dances are a nightly ritual and elders spend time with the youth teaching the oral history of the people. A villager of the same sex adopts a child to instruct them in the knowledge they will need to fulfill their place in society once they reach adulthood. Most Polynesian societies are clan oriented, but this practice seems to be long lost on Abemana although the chief of each village is a benevolent dictator, decision-maker for all things. The authority is undisputed as the chief has a direct lineage to the original settlers according to the oral history.
The intricate workings of local government on Abemana is not unlike many Polynesian societies. On Abemana, the chief and his immediate family are revered and the community tends to their needs. Even so, the chief and his family must be humble and giving in their roles. While a chief’s immediate family might have their foods provided by the community, the chief’s family must insure his people do not go without. For the chief and his family to act in any way superior to his community is somewhat like a cardinal sin. For a family under the chief to not provide their share for the chief’s family is also somewhat of a cardinal sin. The community under the chief’s family lives and farms on the ancestral lands of the chief’s family.
The Chief is the organizer of the community and is responsible for its welfare. He is the judge and jury in all cases that must be decided. Through this governance the community’s needs are served. In the recent past there has been a female chief, an offspring born of the family that produced no sons.
On many islands with numerous chiefs, wars were frequently fought, but oral tradition says this ended in antiquity when the chiefs divided their lands. The lands were so divided as to require each chief to fulfill a need of all the other chiefs on the island. Envy then turned to a desire to cooperate for everyone’s welfare. This was even met with a decree that all shell belonged to the chiefs as shell was to be used when not trading tangible items for tangible items. These finds were to be equally distributed among the communities.
As for the role of the woman, the spouse is adopted into the clan by marriage. By order of the chiefs, a male may only select a wife from one of the other villages, not of his own village.
Abemana is divided into five coastal communities.
The modern world is not found here. There are no cars or trucks. There are no roads at all. Electricity does not light up the darkness. There is no airport. No clinic is maintained on the island. There are no phones. The only way to communicate with the island is my a battery operated radio that is in use only fifteen minutes a day. The only way supplies can get to the island is by wooden motorboat. Sometimes it carries a passenger or two. The schools on the island offers only a basic education.
Unlike many tropical islands, water is not a concern. The deep fresh lens and numerous pools and streams do not require wells or fresh water catchments to meet the needs of the islanders. Even with the fresh water, malaria and dengue fever is not a problem. As one of the few malaria-free islands, the island enjoys flowing water, eliminating the habitat for the disease-carrying mosquitoes. The porous soil prevents puddles from lasting long enough for most mosquitoes to breed. Abemana still has mosquitoes but they only take flight during the day, eliminating the need for mosquito nets.
Abemana is very much a Garden of Eden. What few items are brought in from the outside world comes by case at a time by passenger boat and very little goes off the island. Shark fins are sent off the island to be sold at market and supplies are limited to kerosene, salt and soap. The wooden motorboat can only carry a few crates of supplies at a time anyway.
Men typically fish in the morning while women tend to gardens. Evenings are generally spent in recitations of oral history and traditional dance. Singing is another important factor. Unlike most Polynesian cultures, instrumentation has never caught on. Choral singing is the norm. Some of the songs are quite lengthy, leaving the group spellbound by the tale in song. Such subjects involve fishing trips and legendary tales of unique or unusual accounts of a lifestyle that is typically considered mundane.
Unique to the island is the lack of alcohol or intoxicating beverage. The missionaries that converted the island to Christianity frowned on the use of kava, alcohol and even the betel nut. Chiefs followed the instruction and in only a couple of generations the use of a substance or liquid to intoxicate became a sign of great insult to the preserving of local customs and traditions. It is thought the ban is taken so seriously because one of the most respected chiefs through their oral history disallowed the practice. He did not, however, disallow tobacco. Cigarettes are considered a luxury on the island, as are cigars. While on the subject, coffee, tea and sodas are considered a great luxury. Often these are dispersed with only a small swallow for each person.
Spousal abuse is of special mention here. Among many such cultures, the female suffers at the hand of the male. Here, the female, while holding different roles in society, is seen as essential by all. This had led to a much more ‘equal treatment’ among the sexes. It is also thought that the lack of alcohol has done much to foster this. In many such cultures the primary complaint is a lack of respect from her male partner, closely followed by the complaint that he is always drunk. Certainly, the lack of ‘male houses’ and ‘female houses’ has done much to further the equal treatment although each village has a ‘male house’ and a ‘female house’. Both act as more of a community center. Men frequently go to the ‘male house’ to divide up work while the females take their young children to the ‘female house’ to divide up work, conduct schooling and cooperatively tend the children.
Teens, however, while learning their roles from their adopted adults, are pretty much left to their own until taking a spouse.
The Abemanans speak their own Polynesian-styled language.
Visitors to the island are very few. In the past decade, it is said only four groups of visitors have come to the island. Their stay is usually about 6 weeks to 2 months, the average time between boat visits which can be put off because of the island’s lack of dock.
The only real cash obtained by the islanders is from the sale of shark fins. The little money this produces generally goes to the purchase of kerosene, soap and salt for individual families.
As for local currency, mother of pearl shell is circulated. The mother of pearl is dyed through the use of various plants found on the island. The shell size and color (all pretty much uniform into a number of sizes) is traded for needed supplies. No such exchange rate is used. This local currency functions as a tool to cover shortfalls of individual families and communities. Some of the shell remains natural, but it is of the least value. The thin shell is holed and generally kept on a rib of a leaf for ease of storage. Mother of pearl coins range in size from about 20 millimeters to a huge shell of 70 millimeters. The coins have only etched by hand lettering saying Abemana and the numeric value and 'Ika". The only fairly large exchange of shell comes from the marriage of a female to a male. The family of the male is to pay a fee, negotiated by the famale’s family in order to take her from the village to the home of the male. The price is determined by two factors: the value of the female to her home community and the status of the male in relation to the chief of his own village. For example, a productive and bright female commands a higher price. A man of greater standing in his own community always lowers the price paid. Physical beauty also plays a part.
The tropical cyclone in 2005 changed the thinking of the chiefs. Although there is little need for cash, some items are seen as critical to the survival of the island. For example, the marine radio transmitter and batteries to operate it are seen as essential. The plentiful supply of shell was seen as a possible source of income. Thus, the first real export of the island aside from the shark fins, has been mother of pearl shell money. In addition, some paper notes in 9 different denominations (1 to 500 Ika) were printed off-island by we know not where.