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SOLOMON ISLANDS

Blackbird Singing

By Jheri St. James

 

Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands is a collection of nearly 1,000 islands in Oceania that forms a sovereign country to the east of Papua New Guinea in Melanesia and covers 11,000 square miles.

 

Solomon Islands

It is believed that Papuan-speaking settlers began to arrive here around 30,000 BC. In 5000 BC Austronesians brought outrigger canoes, and between 1200 and 800 BC, the ancestors of the Polynesians, the Lapita people, arrived from the Bismark Archipelago bringing ceramics. At this time, the people of Solomon Islands were notorious for headhunting and cannibalism. In 1568 Spaniard Alvaro de Mendana was the first European to visit, naming the area Islas Salomon. In 1893, the United Kingdom established their protectorate over this island nation, during a period of “blackbirding,” the often brutal recruitment or kidnapping of laborers for sugar plantations in Queensland and Fiji.

Then, during World War II, fierce fighting between the US and Japan was waged on Guadalcanal. In 1976, self-government was achieved and independence two years later. Elizabeth II is head of the constitutional monarchy.

 

The history of this beautiful island paradise is rife with civil wars, political unrest, bids for independence, and earthly disasters. Solomon Islands’ government is characterized by weak political parties and highly unstable parliamentary coalitions, frequent votes of no confidence, and leadership changes.

 

 

 

 

Politics

A game of words
a gamble a risk
say the right words
strike the right chord
choose a sweet melody
and it will ring in the House for years.

A good talker makes a good politician
well versed in making promises
a clear memory to forget
crocodile skin to take criticism
strong stomach to stomach anything
from beer to strong punches
and glassy unseeing eyes
to over-look us.

(Jully (Makini) Sipolo)


In 2007 Solomon Islands was struck by a major earthquake, followed by a large tsunami, reportedly 33 ft. high, culminating in at least 44 aftershocks. Then again on February 16, 2013 an 8.0 earthquake struck off Santa Cruz Island, triggering another tsunami. This is another of the Common Ground 191 soil samples from locations which are particularly treasured because of Mother Earth’s rising waters, and evidently strong physical responses to man’s machinations.

The majority of people there live on subsistence farming and illiteracy is high. Still, Solomon Islands have produced novelists Rexford Orotaloa, John Saunana and the poet Jully (Makini) Sipolo, who have published since independence.

Julie Makini Jully Makini was born in Gizo in the Western Province, Solomon Islands and is a graduate of the University of the South Pacific. She began writing seriously in 1980 after attending the first Solomon Islands Women Writers' Workshop in July of that year. She worked for a time with the USP Solomon Islands Centre as an editor, helping to produce the first collection of Solomon Islands womens' writing, Mi Mere.

Ms Makini has published two collections of poems (under the name Jully Sipolo): Civilized Girl and Praying Parents, and is the editor of Roviana Custom Stories Book/Na Buka Vivinei Malivi pa Zinama Roviana. Her poetry ranges widely, over topics such as the pressures of balancing motherhood and family commitments, the dark side of human relationships and rapidly changing societies, and challenges to peace and environmental sustainability. Since 1995, Ms Makini has worked with WWF Solomon Islands in the area of capacity-building. The poems rewritten here were borrowed from www.books.google.com, with gratitude.

Speared Warriors, 1895

(Speared Warriors 1895)



Temperamental Man

Hard to understand man
loving considerate
he puts up rules to suit himself
pays $5 to see boxing
People caged in to box each other
Bloody and violent
This is sport and entertainment
When people box each other on street corners
This is more than sport
It’s murder!
Pity and sympathy
Culprits taken to the station
What’s the difference?
It’s free entertainment.

Jully (Makini) Sipolo




Civilized Girl

Cheap perfume
Six-inch heels
Skin-tight pants
Civilized girl

Steel-wool hair
Fuzzy and stiff
Now soft as coconut husk
Held by a dozen clips

Charcoal-black skin
Painted red
Bushy eyebrows
Plucked and penciled

Who am I?
Melanesian Caucasian or
Half-caste?
Make up your mind

Where am I going—
Forward, backward, still?
What do I call myself—
Mrs Miss or Ms?

Why do I do this?
Imitation
What’s wrong with it?
Civilization


The majority of Solomon Islanders live in villages like this one located on the outskirts of the capital city of Honiara on Guadalcanal Island. Only about 20 percent of the population lives in urban areas.

Myrtle M. Atienza collected the soil from Solomon Islands on 29 October 2008, in Honiara, the capital city, located on the island of Guadalcanal. Thank you, Myrtle.

Main Street in Honiana, Guadacanal, Capital of Solomon Islands

Main Street in Honiana

The name Honiara derives from nagho ni ara which roughly translates as "place of the east wind" or "facing the southeast wind" in one of the Guadalcanal languages. The town has not been extensively documented and little detailed material exists on the town. What is now Honiara was close to the site of the Guadalcanal Campaign in World War II. The Battle of Henderson Field was held in what is now the airport area in 1942.

The battle was the last of the three major land offensives conducted by the Japanese during the Guadalcanal campaign. In the battle, U.S. Marine and Army forces repulsed an attack by the Japanese 17th Army. U.S. forces were defending the Lunga River perimeter, which guarded Henderson Field on Guadalcanal, that had been captured from the Japanese by the Allies in landings on Guadalcanal on 7 August 1942. Hyakutake's force was sent to Guadalcanal in response to the Allied landings with the mission of recapturing the airfield and driving the Allied forces off of the island. The Japanese initially landed with 3,500 troops but it soon grew to over 20,000 personnel in total, roughly equal with America's 23,000; both sides had about 13,000 troops. After an attempt to deliver further reinforcements failed during the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November 1942, Japan conceded defeat in the struggle for the island and evacuated many of its remaining forces by the first week of February 1943.

The Quanset houses built by the Americans can still be seen in the back lanes of the town and numerous memorials give testament to the war today.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night,
take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise
Blackbird singing in the dead of night,
take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free
Black-bird fly, Black-bird fly, into the light of a dark black night
(Paul McCartney)

(Graphics courtesy of Wikipedia.)

 


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