Art in the Solomon Islands

The Solomon Star recently published an article by Lynnishha Runa about how the Solomon Islands government have been asked to consider the plight of local artists in the country and build an arts school that will bring out the best in their local artists.

Local artist and Chairman of the Art Society Solomon Islands (ASSI) Richard Bibimarui highlighted this when speaking during an art painting workshop at the Art Gallery. Bibimarui said the call is worthwhile considering the sheer number of talented Solomon Islands’ artists and their extensive works.

Speaking about the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, he believed that they should create an art school for our local artists in the country. “This school or facility will indicate that we (Solomon Islanders) have the potential people (artist) who have the heart to enrich our lives, by preserving our culture while supporting individual citizens in the country.”

Bibimarui added, “There are many talented local artists out there who have never attended any school in their lives but they create a piece of art just by their imaginations and expressions. And in order for their talent to become fully developed, we must create a school for them so that they are trained with more knowledge and skills so that it broadens their perspectives.”

Bibimarui said he understands that it will take time and money to do this but he hopes the government knows the true value of an art school and its benefits. He said art is an essential element of education, just like reading, writing and arithmetic, music, dance and other expressions. “Art is a nation’s most precious heritage, for it is in our work of art that we reveal to ourselves and to others the inner vision which guides us as a nation,” he said. Bibimarui believes that such a facility is important for the development of the nation as well as to help local’s artists accomplish their own, as well as the nation’s priorities.


A Melanesian mural- Honiara, Solomon Islands

Melanesian Art Festival

In other “art” news from the Solomon Islands- Information about the 6th Melanesian Arts Festival is now online after the launch of the website at the National Art Gallery.

The website which features high impact images from around the pacific can be viewed by clicking here on

Speaking during the launching Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism Andrew Nihopara said the website will be the window of the festival where every member country can access information and get updates on the festival programs. He said the website is not only informative but it is an enticing website. Nihopara acknowledged those who were involved in giving feedback during the process of designing the website.

Website Developer Shanti Fowler said the website is very unique because of the high impact of images promoting the cultures of Melanesia. She believes in terms of design itself the website has been completed but the its content is still being updated and will be refreshed depending on the progress of the 6th Melanesia Festival.

The 6th Melanesian Arts Festival will be held from July 1-10, 2018 in Honiara. More than 2000 delegates from the four Melanesian countries are expected to attend the festival.

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Pacific Islander Youths Urged to Embrace Their Cultural Heritage

Radio New Zealand posted a very short article about a Solomon Islands academic working in New Zealand who is urging Pasifika youth to embrace their culture and draw strength from their heritage.  Kabini Sanga is an associate professor at Victoria University in Wellington who has established mentoring and leadership training programs for young people in Solomon Islands and New Zealand.

Professor Sanga says in an ever more globalized world knowing and accepting your roots can be an important asset. “Appreciate who you are, be content with who you are. And in being content explore that which is already you. So that in your “daringness” you might even flourish as a person and consequently as a leader.” He continued, “So that the grounds which you conquer might indeed be a blessing not only to yourself and your family but to everyone else.”

In 2016 Herewini Jones, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a New Zealander of Welsh and Maori ancestry devoted much of his adult life to researching the lost cultures of native people in Oceania and America. Herewini grew up at a time when speaking Maori was discouraged, even forbidden.  When he was thirty he decided to learn Maori as a gift to his native mother, who burst into tears of joy when she heard him speak the language of her youth.

Herewini  shared his vast knowledge and experience during a conference in New Caledonia that was about the heritage of their native peoples. His continued study of the Maori and other native peoples, their languages, traditions and cultural symbols found in architecture, tattoos, stories, family names and words led to a realization that most of the problems experienced by Kanaks in New Caledonia and other native Pacific Islanders could best be addressed by drawing on the strengths of their cultural heritage. So impressed were those who heard Herewini Jones that he was later invited to return to meet with the High Chiefs of New Caledonia.


Solomon Island children, 2013

The importance of educating youth in their own cultures, as well as using indigenous languages to educate them, was stressed back in 2003 at the United Nation’s Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

A representative of the United Nations Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) opened the discussion by stating that millions of children continued to be taught in languages they did not use or even understand.  The representative added that the participation of indigenous peoples in designing curricula was still limited, and education still fell short of eliminating prejudice and discrimination targeted at indigenous peoples.

The lack of indigenous education, emphasized a representative of indigenous youth, would continue to set indigenous youth apart from their own cultures. Stressing that education was the key to self-determination, she recommended that educational instruction take place in indigenous languages.

Many recommended that indigenous languages be integrated into national curricula, and urged United Nations agencies to design materials sensitive to the cultural and educational needs of indigenous peoples.  They also stressed that multilingual education should occur at all educational levels, and that indigenous peoples be trained so that they could compete both nationally and internationally.

UNESCO’s representatives also stressed that cultural diversity played a vital role in today’s globalized world, and that culture was an essential element of sustainable development.  The organization had decided that tangible heritage should be regulated by an international convention, and was currently preparing another instrument on cultural diversity.

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Tamtam- The Traditional Cell Phone

Kirk Huffman recently posted an edited version of his article titled, “The drum is the voice of the chief: slit drums and language in northern-central Vanuatu” that I would like to share. The original, longer article can be found in Explore magazine (Australian Museum, Sydney), vol. 37, no. 2, Summer (December) 2015, pp.10-13.

The slit-drum, or tamtam, is an instrument in Vanuatu that can also be used for communication. Slit drums are frequently played in ceremonies and are regarded as possessing magical attributes and are vessels to receive messages from ancestors and sacred spirits.  The drum comes to life as an actual character through the sound that it gives out. They produce a variety of deep, resonating sounds. Each has its own particular tone, independent of the drummer’s style of playing. The pitch will rise as the slit widens.


Weather-worn tamtams at the Vanuatu Cultural Center, Port Vila, Vanuatu


Huffman’s article…

Many younger ni-Vanuatu from the northern and central islands may not necessarily be too aware of the ease with which certain types of messages could be widely communicated by slit drums (and conch shell trumpets) using various levels of coded beats or blasts. Such communications could even be passed between nearby islands when certain weather conditions were right.

When the government set up the international telecommunications satellite office building on the upper part of Independence Park in the early 1980s, the Vanuatu Cultural Center produced a special radio program about slit drum/tamtam messaging/’telecommunications’. The late Chief Willy Taso (from Wuro/Craig Cove, West Ambrym), the then Cultural Center Fieldworker from West Ambrym, was the main individual interviewed – and recorded beating slit drum/tamtam and blowing shell trumpet messages – for the program. 

If you are a young ni-Vanuatu from one of the islands and cultures with slit drums (either vertical or horizontal) and want to know more about traditional ‘telecommunications’ before the arrival of phones and mobile phones, ask your father, your uncle, your grandfather or your chief. Both tamtams and mobile phones each have certain benefits: drum and shell trumpet messages for the general public can be spread very widely very rapidly (if people know the codes) and you don’t have to pay to recharge them! Certain types of private messages, however, are best not spread by tamtam (e.g. it is not necessarily advisable to try and arrange a secret meeting with a girlfriend by tamtam – many people might turn up, so things could get a bit embarrassing…).

The important thing is to recognize that these traditional communications systems have existed for many many centuries and that there are various levels of them – from simple to complex messaging, even to messaging that has ‘codes within codes’. These traditional systems are not necessarily as rapid or as easy for anyone to use as the new phones and mobile phones, but within their limitations they are more reliable, sustainable and cheaper (actually, they are free) than the new technology.

However, it needs chiefs to ensure that there are people within their villages who actually know the coded systems, to send messages or to understand messages coming in….otherwise it will be a situation of the deaf talking to the deaf…so learn the codes! Use the new phones, but don’t throw away your traditional ways of communication: you may need them the next time all the modern things break down (as they do regularly and as they did during Cyclone Pam in March 2015 and Cyclone Hola in March 2018!).

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ICAS Author News and Updates

I just wanted to take this time to share some author updates with you. If you have ever wondered about the guy who creates the posts on this blog, wonder no more. The Pacific Regional Branch International Council on Archives (PARBICA) recently conducted an interview with me. Over the past year I have been writing a few modules for PARBICA’s Recordkeeping for Good Governance Toolkit on Archival Disaster Preparedness and Management. We are hoping to have these modules complete within the next few months. During the course of this work an interviewed unfolded.

You can read the interview by simply clicking here… and I must say that I’m looking very “islandy” in one of my Bula shirts.

Also, if anyone is planning to be in Hilo, Hawaii on May 26, 2018, come join me at a signing event for my book Mr. Moonlight of the South Seas published by Dockside Sailing Press. The event will take place at Basically Books at 1672 Kamehameha Avenue, Hilo. Basically Books is a specialty bookstore that has been serving the Hilo and Hawaii Island community since 1985. As more information regarding this event unfolds, I will pass them on to you. I’m really looking forward to being at Basically Books and meeting you!


Brandon Oswald chatting with Robert Dean Frisbie’s daughter, Elaine, at Lido Village Books signing event, October 2017

If you are in San Diego County, good news: Mr. Moonlight was part of the 52nd Annual Local Author Program through the San Diego County Public Library. The book is now shelved in the Popular Library and is ready to circulate from March 1 — February 28, 2019.


Speaking of publishers- Dockside Sailing Press has recently revamped their Website. Besides Mr. Moonlight, there are other books written about the Pacific Islands that may be of interest to you. So, the Website is definitely worth checking out. Among the new features you’ll see:

-In Browse, books are now grouped by category for easy browsing by readers.
Each book has a short description for a quick look and a longer one for a more detailed review.

-Click on the book description and it will take you directly to a website for Amazon or Barnes & Noble where the book can be purchased.

-The Author’s page has each author’s bio and photograph.

-On the Trailers tab you’ll find videos for select books. These are also on YouTube.
The Review page has a starter review for each book. In practice, readers will email in reviews and we will then post them.

-The News page will carry announcements of new books, author signings, and other significant events.

-The Art Store is a new addition. Currently it has 56 original paintings by Nancy J Smith. These original paintings can be purchased framed, printed on canvas or aluminum, or on a coffee mug or tote bag.

Lots of links today, but a big “mahalo” (thanks) for checking them out!!

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New Zealanders Rekindle Indigenous Pride

The  New York Times recently printed an article written by Charlotte Graham-McLay that I thought was very interesting. It was about sailing traditional double-hulled canoes, or wakas, in New Zealand. Although I pulled out certain passages from the article, feel free to read the entire article by clicking here. It has some pictures!


A traditional Maori canoe,

Centuries before the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman and Britain’s Captain James Cook arrived in what became New Zealand, there was Kupe, a 10th-century navigator from Tahiti.

This past February — a group of sailors recreated Kupe’s journey, steering the double-hulled canoes known as waka hourua in New Zealand’s indigenous Maori language. The waka, whose crews included a group of teenagers from Maori language schools, were billed as the main attraction in the opening night of the New Zealand Festival, a three-week arts and culture event that began last month and runs through March 18.

It was the biggest fleet of waka to arrive in Wellington since the landing of Kupe, whose story was told in the opening-night spectacle. The crews had set sail from New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, when they hit squalls and bad weather on their four-week voyage to Wellington.

Around 20,000 people gathered on Wellington’s waterfront to see the waka hourua arrive, joined by a number of carved wooden paddling canoes, or waka taua. Actors playing the roles of Kupe and Kuramarotini sang and called to each other from stages at either end of the harbor, and a 300-strong Samoan choir performed traditional songs of welcome.

As the last of the waka sailed into the harbor and darkness fell, a thousand people launched into an energetic haka powhiri, a chant and dance of welcome. They were mostly students in their school uniforms, joined by 100 government workers who had practiced one lunchtime a week for months. 

Mr. Moeahu, who grew up not speaking Maori or participating in Maori-language performing arts, was emotional at such a public platform for his culture, as well as his own part in the performance. “At first I felt really calm,” he said. “But the moment I looked at the young kids and said, ‘It’s time,’ and they said, ‘Really?’ something changed.”

In previous generations, Maori were discouraged from speaking their indigenous tongue at school, and efforts to revive it in the past few decades have sprung up out of fears that the language would die out.

The significance of the mass haka was not lost on some of the teenagers performing it, who said they keenly followed public debates over whether Maori, an official language of New Zealand, was worth preserving.

At the head of the vessel was Fealofani Bruun, a 32-year-old female captain whom many — particularly “Moana” fans — had come to see. Ms. Bruun said that in addition to using celestial navigation, her crew had followed traditional protocols for every part of their journey, including their interactions with one another, meal preparation and, where possible, the food they ate, including coconut cream, taro and fresh fish.

Standing knee-deep in the sea on Petone Beach, a 35-year-old Haunui crew member, Dale Dice, said taking to the sea had strengthened his connection with his culture. Mr. Dice, who works as a furniture removalist, said “I never really knew the history of these waka,” he said. “Being on board, it adds a whole new dimension to my knowledge of being Maori. I feel more Maori now.”

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Keeping Chamorro Culture Alive

To keep the Chamorro culture intact, the Guam Preservation Trust hosted the Pacific Preservation Summit last month to educate and build on ways that they can keep the island culture and history alive.

This inaugural summit was held in the historic district of Hagåtña, Guam and focused on five disciplines in historic preservation: Architecture, Archaeology, Culture, History, and Community Planning. With the theme  “Connect, Appreciate, Preserve” they invited their communities to celebrate their Pacific Heritage.

The goal of the event was to provide educational opportunities, enhance workforce skills and develop collaborative resources for the Pacific Islands to adapt to modern-day obstacles for historic and cultural preservation. It was also hoped that the summit would develop collaborative resources to prepare their Pacific Islands to build capacity for adaptation and mitigate current threats to both tangible and intangible historic and cultural preservation areas that their communities value.


Koror, Palau

The summit addressed a critical need for Pacific island communities to protect cultural, natural and historic resources. Preservation is necessary with increased economic development, the U.S. military relocation and buildup in the Asia-Pacific region, and the disturbing rise of sea levels due to climate change.

A good example of how this summit would help with cultural preservation in Guam and other islands came from Nick Delgado who wrote a short article for the KUAM News:

Building a strong relationship with the military has been a struggle since the announcement that thousands of marines and their families would be relocating from Okinawa, Japan to Guam. But, has that progressed? Chief program officer Joe Quinata said, “There is always going to be a disconnect but in communicating, in doing a lot of the things we do today, the connection is going to happen.”

A connection, Quinata says, they want to happen the right way. He’s the chief program officer of the Guam Preservation Trust. So, the effort is only fitting that work is done in the best interest of preserving the island. “We hope that the military becomes our partner as we move on to preserve our heritage,” he said.

A movement that now will bring others, preservationist and conservationist alike to one table to talk issues during the Pacific Preservation Summit. “So we are expecting historic preservation officers from the different islands, conservation organizations from the different islands. We are going to get together so that we can be able to look at how we can get our resources together to help each other. There are issues that we need to talk about. Issues about climate change. Issues about threatening of historic sites, and also issues that are in our front yard,” he explained.

Pointing back to the military buildup, Quinata says it’s the public’s responsibility to ensure they connect, appreciate, and preserve the place we call home.

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Cook Islands National Culture Policy

Let’s keep to the theme of culture and look at current events going on in the Cook Islands and their new National Culture Policy initiated by the Ministry of Cultural Development (MOCD).

The Cook Islands News reported that at this time the policy addresses four strategic goals, which will introduce a number of significant changes that are expected to be noticed from this year onward.

An imperative for the MOCD is to ensure that the cultural industry becomes officially established and recognized as an economic driver for the Cook Islands. Currently, this is being done haphazardly, with no known official information about the industry, and at this stage of development stakeholders will need to rally together to set systems that will establish and promote the industry.

Furthermore, indigenous Cook Islanders will be encouraged to be creative by diversifying to meet market demand and sourcing markets that will generate the most substantial return, all while being mindful of the environment.

During this time, the practice of using native history and arts will be established as a platform for servicing new, innovative and fast-changing markets.

Artworks will be integrated as marketable products and the MOCD will ensure that they are protected against counterfeits and pirates through official branding and careful product promotion. To achieve the best possible outcomes for the industry, systems and infrastructures are to be continuously improved.

The first of the four strategic goals that aim to make this a reality is to grow the popularity of the market, which will first be directed towards locals to sell genuine cultural products. The Business Trade Investment Board (BTIB), Cook Islands Tourism, and Climate Change Cook Islands will identify markets interested in Cook Islands products, and the possibility of providing tax exemptions for businesses who supply genuine cultural products will be explored. Arts and crafts shops will also be accredited.

Being innovative with cultural products is the second strategic goal, with the first directive being to utilize the various art forms as a basis to diversify into new products. Research will be carried out to assess market demand, products’ resilience to climate change, and the tastes and preferences of the consumer. This information will be provided to potential suppliers, in addition to programs that will expose them to various markets providing similar products.


Growing and promoting cultural products is the third strategic goal, with the primary focus on seeking out markets. MOCD will conduct a feasibility study on the possibility of a cultural village at the Punanga Nui markets for the display and promotion of tangible and intangible Cook Islands products. A technology program will be instituted for the marketing of products, and the Pa Enua (outer islands) will be included in a chain of cruise boats as a means to stimulate the economy and industry.

Lastly, the fourth goal of balancing supply and demand will be achieved in part by establishing and accepting a realistic level of market supply without compromising the environment. Information about our products must be made available to increase the understanding and appreciation of the uniqueness, authenticity, quality and organic nature of the products being sold. Standards of quality will also be established, and products will be branded as a way to separate them from mass-produced items of a similar ilk.

All of the above strategies will be monitored and evaluated for their effectiveness, and will be amended if necessary.

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