Looking out on the bay at Nugu, I can hardly justify calling this blog "everyday life" but with my last Aussie visitor arriving from Adelaide, old mate Karen, I'm seeing the Solomons again through fresh eyes, reminded once more that things that have become the norm, are a world away from life back home. So here with the sun shining and the occasional buzz of a passing wasp a will write of a few such curios.
Back at Tomboko this week, I had a chance to catch up with friends there after a few months. The family's youngest lad, Sunny, has grown about a foot since I was there last and it reminds me that life goes on around the world and my little adventures don't rate a drop in the grand scheme of things but I'm enjoying them none the less. While there, Mae (names won't mean much to you but I will remember hopefully) was excited to show me the turtles that they had been catching that day and never one to pass on a cultural experience, I was eager to follow. However, seeing the first turtle upside down filling a wheelbarrow and in obvious distress I thought I'd spare Kaz the view. It's a strangely confronting sight even for me but I know in reality there is no justification to judge the practice any differently to our own procurement of meat in the West.
Cultural contrasts like these abound in the truly unique world of the Solomons and writing of such things would be incomplete without the inclusion of the subject of tattoos and tribal markings. So here we go…
Contemporary tattoos are common in the Solomons and locals sport them, sometimes from as young as ten or eleven. Cultural tattoos however are less common and in the case of facial scaring, are a dying art. The Renbell people earn the title of most comprehensive ink of all the regions, identified by a simple fish silhouette tattooed on their upper arms is only the beginning, with traditional designs covering individual's entire bodies. I remember a conversation about one of my guy's tattoos, ending with a proud, completely serious statement in a thick island accent, "I am almost finished, I only need to tattoo my arse" hmm.. majestic. Traditionally they were done with locally derived ink and Kastom tools but now though the designs have stayed true to tradition, the tattooing itself is done with modern ink and tattoo guns.
The Malaitans mark language groups in another way, with facial carvings. The practice basically involves scratching out identifying designs in the cheeks of members when they are still babies. Lime and green coconut juice is also rubbed into the wounds perhaps helping the scars to set. This tradition is not exclusive to Malaita and is common to many pacific tribes however in the Solomons at least, it is becoming less and less common as the region is modernized. This is not to say though, that I don't see these awesome designs on a daily basis.
I have said it before and I'll say it again, they build them tough out here.