SOLOMON GRASSROOT Ann Lindvall Arika
© 2020 Lindvall Arika, Ann Photos: Lindvall Arika, Ann except Photos 19 and 23 Photo 19: Permission to publish from Roger Keesing Papers MSS 427, Special Collections & Archives, University of California San Diego, USA Photo 23: Permission to publish from Orisi, Wilzen, Solomon Islands Cover: Lindvall Arika, Ann Publisher: BoD – Books on Demand, Stockholm, Sweden Print: BoD – Books on Demand, Norderstedt, Germany ISBN: 978-91-7969-733-4
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS With these words, I want to thank iufala evriwan, ‘all of you’, who have helped me make this book come true. A special thanks goes to Anne-Maree Schwarz, Suzanne Feary – both of them living in Honiara – Jean Hudson and Gloria Webb, who have given valuable comments and suggestions. Thanks also to my wantoks, ‘one-talk, same language’, Björn Svensson and Eva Carlsson, as well as Janet Fenwick, Jean Schellhart, Karen Graybeal, Rosebud Armstrong and Shanti Dorairaju Fowler for the same reasons. Thanks, Lime Lounge and YWCA, both in Honiara, for their great helpfulness. Last, but not least, a big thanks to my husband Robert Arika, all my family members, relatives, friends and neighbours for explanations, advice and encouragement. Taggio tumas, evriwan. Bao le’a baita, famoru te’efou.
REVIEWS ‘I read this book before starting to work in Honiara and it was a great introduction to life in “The Hapi Isles”. This is essential reading for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of contemporary life in Solomon Islands.’ Björn Svensson, Australia. Volunteer, Tourism Advisor in Solomon Islands (‘The Hapi Isles’) ‘I met Ann Lindvall Arika in Honiara in 2012 and again in 2019. Helping her with editing and translating has been a great pleasure and a privilege, not only because it can now be read by a wider audience but because it opened my eyes to so much about Solomon Islands and her people. This book is about her life; how she came to understand and adapt to Solomon Islands culture and society and to flourish in a place that has many challenges. It is the most fascinating, honest and accurate insight into Solomon Islands culture that I have ever come across, and, in my view, should be read by everyone intending to get there. I will be recommending that the Australian Volunteer programme make the book essential reading for future volunteers going on assignment to Solomon Islands.’ Suzanne Feary, Australia. PhD in Archaeology. Assisting the Ministry of Culture & Tourism in Solomon Islands ‘A great “culture guide” with lots of useful dos and don’ts.’ John Berggren, Sweden ‘Ann Lindvall Arika tells us not only what she observes but also how she feels, with honesty and humour ... She has quietly adopted Solomon Islands ways and lives as Solomon Islanders do. If you are a visitor to Solomon Islands, this book will give you additional insights to enrich your own experiences.’ Anne-Maree Schwarz, New Zealand. PhD. Collaborator on Marine Resource Management, Solomon Islands ‘I could not stop reading... Your writing means a lot to me, for it is like scratching under the surface, trying to understand our complex culture. Getting down to the Melanesian mind set can be very difficult for most people of other cultures, but you are able to do it quite well. I congratulate you Ann. I want you to write more.’ Dr. Lazarus Tavichikai, Solomon Islands My linguist friend and colleague at Malmö University, Sweden, Ann Lindvall Arika, who has chronicled many of her travels over the years, tells us about everyday life in her adopted country. Her story is about day-to-day happenings enhanced by her own insightful reflections on events and characters in this Pacific nation.’ Jean Hudson, Prof. em. on English Linguistics, Sweden
‘Somewhat the same theme as in The White Masai by Corinne Hofmann, but with a different end...’ Lisa Lundqvist, Sweden ‘Why would a highly experienced and world travel writer as Ann Lindvall Arika from Sweden, a developed country, want to marry someone in East Kwaio and spend her entire life in Solomon Islands? – That’s my question.’ Julian Maka’a, Writer for Island Sun, Solomon Islands ‘Ann Lindvall Arika’s book Solomon Grassroot pulled me into a journey into another world. The ‘former’ picture of the South Pacific is substituted with a new and fresher picture than the one many of us have been ‘fed’ with. Not only her knowledge but also her experience as a traveller give a new dimension to travelling as an art, with a warm and active participation in other cultures – a travel story which ends up in emigration. The people around her are an important element, where ‘Respect’ is one of her mottoes. She also touches the negative impacts of the Western World, important to emphasize. I as a reader am really getting even more interested in this part of the world, and the desire to travel is, after this reading, almost irresistible.’ Maria Veneke Ylikomi, Language Consultant, Writer for Maia, former Publisher, Sweden ‘Replanting oneself in new soil is nothing unusual, but doing it in so different soil is unusual. The writer and Ph.D.-linguist Ann Lindvall Arika writes from her and her husband’s palm leaf house in Solomon Islands’ capital Honiara. She paints house, surroundings, people, animals, daily duties; That is the life in a country where nobody is in a hurry but where everybody has something to do. Interpersonal relations are the important issue, not strive after individual success. Lindvall Arika sees herself as an ordinary ‘grassroot’ in a Solomon version. But she is of course not so ’ordinary’. She is a well-educated, European woman who manages the piece feat of neither romanticizing nor give way for exoticism, a balance act which I think few would manage. She is doing it with a maintained integrity. She tells in a simple way how it is; about people around her, and also about political, social and economic conditions in a country, which, as it appears, may have similarities with any old agrarian country. That is the exciting point with her book – to see everyday life so far away, to understand the feeling of home-coming which is the point of departure of the book. The book awakes thoughts about our own society; do we have it best? Ann Lindvall Arika has a personal answer to that question. Solomon Grassroot is written in a vivid and fresh style. Rich background facts and many photos complete this unusual emigrant story. Kerstin Gansmark, Culture Reviewer, Sweden
FOREWORD Solomon Grassroot is a translation and further elaboration of two published autobiographic books in Swedish: Korallbältet – vresor i Melanesien och Mikronesien [The Coral Belt – Travelling in Melanesia and Micronesia] 2008 and Härhemma i Honiara – mitt liv i Salomonöarna [Here at Home in Honiara – My Life in Solomon Islands] 2011. Part I is based on the first book covering the years 2006-2007, when I was still travelling. Part II is based on the second book covering 20082011, where I mainly depict my own living environment in Honiara and in East Kwaio. Part III covers the following years 2011-2020. Statistics, prices etc. are always from 2020, even in Part I and II. Then, who am I? I am a Swedish woman and have been based almost all my life in Sweden. (I have travelled quite a lot, though.) Solomon Islands is my new home country and the capital Honiara my new home city. Via my marriage, I have been given a big family, and this book describes everyday life here – mine and theirs – as a Solomon ‘grassroot’. My family belongs to the ethnic group Kwaio, living on the east coast of Malaita Island in Solomon Islands. Consequently, I want to give a deeper insight into the Kwaio culture, as well as background facts about the nation as a whole. The autobiography is an attempt to answer the questions: Why did I take the step? What is everyday life like? What kind of happiness and sorrows do the people have? How do the different cultures meet? Is the culture ‘totally different’, ‘enormously exotic’, etc.? How can a foreigner feel at home here? (My friends who emigrated from Sweden to Australia describe their step as a move to the neighbour’s house, compared to mine.) I have tried to be neutral and objective, but still, all my impressions are interpreted through my Swedish eyes; anything else is not possible. But now, come with me and have a look yourself!
TABLE OF CONTENTS Acknowledgements Reviews Foreword Table of Contents Where Do I Live? 11 PART I: THE WAY HOME 13 FIRST STOP POLYNESIA 15 Writing, languages and travelling – Bienvenue à Tahiti – Cook Islands – Auckland, New Zealand – The Pacific A SCENT OF MELANESIA 18 Welkam to Vanuatu – Cultural Center – Mele Maat – Bonjour NouvelleCalédonie KING SOLOMON’S HIDDEN TREASURE 23 A new country to love – Solomon Islands in short – The capital Honiara – Towards Malaita! – Christmas in Gounabusu – Dolphin Center and Kwai Island – Auki – Back to Honiara – Happy New Year! – Gizo – Munda – Nusa Roviana with the stone dog – Holopuru Falls – Skull houses on Kundu Island – Honiara revisited TO AND FRO IN THE PACIFIC 51 Marshall Islands, Micronesia – Back in Honiara – Bula Fiji – An important meeting – A Declaration of Love – Fiji again – Reunion with Tonga – Intercultural problems in Samoa PART II: AT HOME! 67 EVERYDAY LIFE IN HONIARA 69 Tristesse – Honiara in summary – The people in Solomon Islands – Arrival – The house – Koa Hill and its inhabitants – Residence permit – Daily life – At the market – Pets – Pigs – Water and culture – The battle about the energy – Guadalcanal and war movies – Palm felling – Bugs and other annoyances – The new veranda
MALAITA 95 At sea – East Kwaio – Fousisigi – Friday market in Wa’ini – Christmas in Fousisigi – Village life – Food and meals – To the gardens – Handicraft – Canoe sealing – The hidden people – Gender roles and femininity – Clothes – Floating families – Child rearing – Conflict – Folk belief – An academic family – Shell money – Our ‘holiday house’ – Truck adventure TIME GOES BY 126 Back in town – Natural catastrophes – Our own ethnic tensions – House girls – Vanuatu, a Duty-Free paradise? – Europe – Tourist life – Compensation – Kastom and wantok – The Colonial Ghost – A death – A church wedding – A kastom wedding – A third wedding PART III: EVER AFTER 145 DYNAMICS AND PEACE 147 New house – Economy and paradoxes – The Big Flood – Alcohol and other drugs – Violence – Languages in Melanesia – Solomon Pijin – Names, kin terms and ways of addressing – Focus on age – Parliament election – Media – Health and ill-health – Soap and craft – Economic equality – Another culture? – Development of society Here I Live 173 Afterword 175 Photos 176 Maps 186 Contact the Author 189
What is it like to move to a new country on the other side of the globe, from an industrialized, so-called developed country to an agrarian one? The writer and former traveller Ann Lindvall Arika has taken the step from Sweden to Solomon Islands. She has settled down and married into a big Solomon family. In Solomon Grassroot, we can take part in her new life on a ‘grassroots’ level. This personal and easy-going autobiography is an attempt to answer the questions: Why did she do it? What is everyday life like? How can a foreigner feel at home here? With warmth and a low-voiced humour, the author portrays episodes from her daily living, both in the capital city of Honiara and in her husband’s village. She brings up essential cultural aspects and back-ground facts about the country. Photos and maps complete this unusual story.