The Art of Kula

Synopsis

Nearly a century ago, it was predicted that Kula, the exchange of shell valuables in the Massim region of Papua New Guinea, would disappear. Not only has this prophecy failed to come true, but today Kula is expanding beyond these island communities to the mainland and Australia.This book unveils the many deep motivations and meanings that lie behind the pursuit of Kula. Focusing upon the visually stimulating carved and painted prow boards that decorate canoes used by the Kula voyagers, Campbell argues that these designs comprise layers of encoded meaning. The unique colour associations and other formal elements speak to Vakutans about key emotional issues within their everyday and spiritual lives. How is mens participation in the Kula linked to their desire to achieve immortality? How do the messages conveyed by the canoe boards converge with those presented in Kula myths and rituals? In what ways do these systems of meaning reveal a male ideology that competes with the prevailing female ideology? Providing an alternative way of understanding the significance of Kula in the Trobriand Islands, The Art of Kula makes an influential new contribution to the ethnography of Papua New Guinea.