With the Left Hand

Soulava (shells, glass beads, banana seeds), mint Polish coins
Approx. 120cm

A ‘soulava’ is a ceremonial necklace and one of two items (the other, a ‘mwali’, is a shell armband) that circulate in the Kula ring, an exchange economy between the island communities in the Massim region of Papua New Guinea. In Kula, the two objects are never exchanged one for another, but rather move in opposite direction around the ring: the soulava move clockwise (given ‘with the left hand’), while the mwali move anti-clockwise (given ‘with the right hand’). The objects are never said to be possessed by anyone, but instead pass between people, as a means for creating new experiences for those involved.

The soulava here was one that had already been withdrawn from the Kula and was obtained from the National Cultural Commission in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. To it I have added six Polish coins, each from 2002, and each minted with a portrait of Malinowski in commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of his death. The resultant work might be considered an ‘entangled object’, created from separate elements that have each been withdrawn from the circuits of exchange that previously gave them their value.

This work is now in the collection of the Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz, together with the photographic series As Witkiewicz (2009).