Cowry cash

Cowry cash

As Nigeria is not so prone to tourism from abroad, I had a lot of trouble taking out cash of the banks with my foreign international card. They would simply not accept it. Nor would the money exchange in the Netherlands give me Nigerian Nairas. Quite an uncommon ask I presume? I thought that we could order anything online nowadays.

Binary Tales is a documentary project currently in development. In search of a different perspective filmmaker Juul van der Laan teams up with professor Sophie Oluwole to look into a pre-colonial philosophy. Read more here



Maybe we should move back to the days when everybody paid with shells. Cowries, to be specific. I reckognised them from a memory: the tourist bracelets I bought with my pocket money (Dutch guilders at the time). Me and my family were visiting a French market one summer vacation. It must have been about 2000 (A.C.). Flash forward to Nigeria last year. I saw a babalawo use them during an Ifa session. I was explained that they used to be the currency back in the days.




Shells everywhere

To my surprise I found out that most countries and cultures centuries ago used this shell currency. Actually there was a time in which some Western countries even used it. To buy slaves in Africa though. Until the colonial governments decided it wasn’t beneficial for their trade. That’s when they introduced coins in Africa.



Fast forward (please) to now. Cowries are still present in traditional settings. But in conjunction with modern Nairas. Some valid currency is needed to do a proper “divination” of course.



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