Solomon Islands - Vanikoro & Santa Ana Islands

[June 2012]


Paramount Chief

Chris Albert Ramoli came calling the morning after we arrived at Vanikoro. He brought with him a carved billy club and our friendship (and trading sessions) began...

Ollie, Chrisma & Leonard

were with Chief Chris when he arrived. Chrisma wears the same chief's symbol as her father.


and his wife Helen, sister in law Jocelyn and niece Mavis came next. Not pictured was Justin. They wiped us out of many of our trading items including a digital watch traded to Justin for tusks.

Fake Peni Mangila

are stones formed or found after a lightning strike. Chris Albert was anxious to know if we knew anything about them.

This little beauty

is named Sharon and she accompanied Chris Albert, Chrisma and Leonard on their later trading visit to Carina.

Our traders

flush with "loot" and with darkness falling, finally set sail to return to Buma village

Fish Float

and the artist who paddled his canoe across a challenging strait from Santa Catalina to Santa Ana. We bought the float...

Santa Ana

or Owa Rafa Island was our next stop. The anchorage called Port Mary is almost a perfect circle surrounded by coral. The chief of the area around Gupuna village is John Wapua and he quickly became a friend.

Gupuna Village

Had many homes made from wood, but most were still made of leaves.


The prices on this list are in Solomon Is dollars which were about 7 to 1 of USD when we were there. Despite an apparent supply, we never saw a baby in a diaper...they just go around bare bummed and quite happily so.

And abundance of rain

made clothes drying a challenge, though in Gupuna they seemed to have figured it out...Extended roofs also kept internal sand floors dry.

The Kuper

family, descendents of Heinrich Kuper, a plantation owner, still live in relative luxury and consider themselves "German" despite their majority Melanesian blood. Laura Kuper asked if we could load music on her Ipad!!


This historic carving is an offering bowl used in a kastam would have yam pudding or pig's blood in it during a traditional ceremony. John Wapua's father carved it, but died before it was finished. His mother finished the inlay.

Natagera Village

children seem gleeful despite its seemingly desolate windward side location

Natagera's location

seems vulnerable and indeed most homes are lost when a serious cyclone hits.

No outriggers here

in Santa Ana; fishermen successfully ply the rough open ocean in narrow dugouts.

Nafinuatogo's children

are also easily entertained. A quick smile or a silly grimace sets of a string of giggles even if we had no more lollies to offer.

Kastom house

A kastom house is the center of the old spirituality that predates Christianity. The government and churches have succeeded in eliminating most, though the leaders of Natagera steadfastly support their house.


of their ancestors bones are central to the pair of kastom houses that sit very near the surf at Natagera.


depicting a ritual of preparation of pudding comprised of yams and perhaps blood (of pigs)


the canoes holding the bones of past chiefs - the canoes are believed to carry the chiefs to the afterworld - sit baskets containing ancient skulls


perhaps but the men of Santa Ana protect their ancestors...they just don't bury them.


they're real skulls but no one could tell us how old they were

Lake Wairafa

is a short hike along a rough trial from Gupuna. At its crude landing, logs cut by villagers are offloaded. The wood will be used for home-building or carving, the latter being the primary source of income for islanders. The problem of course is bringing the carvings to market.


is a "paint" created by squeezing the shavings of a particular tree bark to extract a sap. The sap is then mixed with fine carbon from charcoal of yet another tree. John and the carvers of Santa Ana and Santa Catalina are fiercely protective of their secret formula.

European Graves

sit on Kuper land on the SW part of Santa Ana island in an area damaged by a tsunami. The remains of a (half) American soldier found by island fishermen during WWII also is buried here.

A Walking Stick

of kastom design was being finished when we visited. John added more inlay and finished it in supuru and we purchased it as a momento.