Kurtatchi - Economy



Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Tinputz were typical Melanesian swidden horticulturalists, growing taro as a staple crop. Coconuts were grown for food and, after Contact and with administration encouragement, as a cash crop. When a taro disease swept through Bougainville during World War II, sweet potatoes became more important in the diet. Bonito fishing was an important male activity. Some Tinputz men worked as plantation laborers in Bougainville and elsewhere before World War II, but they devoted more time to their own cash crops thereafter. A major cash crop today is cocoa. Those Tinputz with higher education, like their peers elsewhere in Papua New Guinea, are now employed in the modern, urban economic sector.

Industrial Arts. Traditional crafts included canoe building, wood carving, and making mats, baskets, and rain hoods from pandanus leaves. Most of these arts are still practiced.

Trade. The most important form of traditional exchange was between coastal and inland villages, trading fish for taro. Tinputz also exchanged various items for pottery produced on Buka. Two forms of currency were used traditionally: strings of teeth, either of flying fox or porpoise, and strings of shell discs. However, these were special-purpose currencies only, used for marriages and other socially important occasions. Tinputz and other Bougainvilleans began sporadic trading with European ships in the nineteenth century, exchanging coconuts and other food items for metal tools, among other things. European administrations imposed a head tax early in the colonial period, which forced the development of a cash economy: the islanders began to produce copra and to work for wages. Today all are involved to some degree in a modern cash economy.

Division of Labor. Like other Melanesians, Tinputz traditionally divided subsistence tasks according to gender: men did the heavy work of clearing land for gardens, built fences, houses, and canoes, hunted, and fished beyond the reef while women gardened, cooked, gathered marine life from the reef, and bore most responsibility for child rearing. Men were much more active than women in the economy established during the colonial period, working as casual or indentured laborers, and are still overrepresented in higher education and the cash economy. However, women today may grow and market cash crops.

Land Tenure. Blackwood describes land as belonging to a village, but with managerial rights vested in the highestranking clan. It is most likely that rights to land could be obtained through more than one kind of social connection: clan membership, locality, marriage, or individual kin networks. Trees might be individually claimed and today, when much land is planted in cash-crop trees, there are more disputes over land as people seek individual ownership in a European pattern.

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