Over the last three hundred years Westerners have deliberately degraded traditional standards of evaluation of Pacific Cultures, imposing alien standards of judgement that have stymied original creativity in Pacific societies.
At the tailend of the twentieth century the University of the South Pacific embarked on a programme of original creativity aimed at the development of contemporary arts that are vibrantly and distinctively Oceanic. This paper provides an outline of the programme that has attracted increasing attention from within and outside the Pacific Islands region.
This paper assumes a very pragmatic approach in explicating the phenomenon of food security from a community initiative in the Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea. Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski made Trobriand Islands famous in the early part of the last century (see especially Malinowski, 1922, 1929). About the same time the British and subsequently Australian colonial administrators were already intent on instituting a state-like control of the islands affairs. Since then tradition vis-a-vis change has had some pretty turbulent moments. For once, population of the islands increased exponentially particularly during the post WWII decade just as the cash economy was craftily ushered in by Western capitalism beginning with the beachcombers and the colonial administration. Questions of independence, autonomy and self-reliance subsequently emerged and fared rather prominently in the local people’s affairs. Two very recent catastrophes that hit the island, however, brought about enlightened realisation for the people of their being and future. In late 1993 the island was seriously devastated by a cyclone. Houses, economic trees and food gardens were destroyed. And in the wake of the 1997-8 six-month drought, courtesy of an El Niño, the source of the islands’ food supplies was brought down to its own knees. Root crops withered and died such that people were forced to beg from the state or any lending agent for assistance. Whether it was the work of God or, some other, has since remained a contentious issue. Notwithstanding, the summing effect had an interesting twist in which the two events reminded and thereby revived the people’s fast disappearing wise practices. As a start, the people realised that they must also return to old-aged traditions of replanting and caring for economic trees so as to sustain a desired state of food security rather than relying upon the state or some foreign agency for continued subsistence. The underlying theme then is on how to survive the coming 21st century through a subtle blend of traditional and modern knowledge.
This presentation will provide some insights into the ways in which traditional culture, or “custom,” is being interpreted by different social actors in Vanuatu today. In the process of national ‘development’, there are a number of issues to do with “custom” being publicly debated in the media and other national fora. By seeing these issues as discourses, and by describing how these discourses have been constituted, this presentation will highlight some of the ways in which the concept of traditional culture or “custom” is being used and contested today. The particular discourses described here are those relating to the role of chiefs, the promotion of gender equity and the relevance of the formal education system.
The distribution of food is a central focus of a wide range of behaviors and values in Dusun Baguk, a Sumatran fishing village. Abundant food must be shared with others, and individuals who demonstrate a reticence to share face negative sanctions. At the same time, generosity with food can constitute an avenue for prestige acquisition, yet status-striving is constrained by an egalitarian ethos. Issues of generosity, status, and reciprocity inform food distribution and consumption in both public and private domains, and across both religious and secular contexts. Throughout, commensalism is the hallmark of group membership. Dusun Baguk food norms and values are examined in light of behavioral ecological concepts of risk management, tolerated theft, and show-off distribution of resources.
Recent excavations on motu Te Kainga (RAK-1) on Rakahanga in the northern Cook Islands revealed a prehistoric nucleated village dating from the 15th to the 17th centuries with abundant evidence of marine exploitation. Manufacture of pearl shell artefacts is well attested at the site. Pearl shell fishhooks as well as ornaments, identical to those used historically to decorate canoes, are the most common finished artefacts. No less than six classes of fishhook heads were recovered. Three of these (Classes 2,3,3; 2,3+4,3; 1,5,?) have not been reported elsewhere in the Cook Islands and appear to be local innovations. Two others (Classes 1,2,3; 2,2,3) are widespread in Archaic East Polynesian sites and have also been recovered from sites in the southern Cook Islands including Anai’o (MKE-1) on Mauke and Moturakau (MR-1) on Aitutaki. Class 1,3,3 is known from both Te Kainga and MKE-1, supporting the hypothesis that pearl shell or perhaps finished fishing gear was exchanged from Rakahanga-Manihiki to the southern Cook Islands, some 560 nm (1,000 km) away.