Alan's Class (1996/7)


The Solomon Islands

by Alaitz

I have to admit that I was tempted to search for information about the Solomon Islands because of its name. My mother used to tell me tales about King Solomon's wisdom and I loved them.
The whole thing started when I was told that there are still traditional tribes there. I had never heard about the Solomon Islands before we started working on this Oceania Project, but I wanted to learn new things. What I found was truly amazing....


General information



The Solomon Islands are located in the South Pacific, just Northeast of Australia, between Papua and Vanuatu and constitute an independent state within the British Commonwealth.

The Solomon Islands are a chain of seven large and many smaller islands from northwest to southeast over 1,500 km. They are volcanic, mountainous, and heavily forested. The area (28900 square km) is divided into nine provinces:

Guadalcanal (5,302 sq km) is the biggest island, with 49,000 inhabitants. Here we find the highest mountain in the country, Popomanasiu (2,440m). The government and most industry and commerce are also located here.

Western province, famous for its turquoise waters and lagoons, is a great place for ecotourism. Choiseul province is formed from volcanic origin islands. In Malaita province people still live close to the nature and practice ancient traditions such as kite fishing and ancestor and shark worship.

Rennell and Bellona are two atolls where Polynesian people speak a language related to Maori. Rennell is the largest uplifted atoll in the world; its lake Tenganu has environmental significance: at the bottom you can see eight Catalina flying boats from the Second World War.

Central province (Ngella, Russels and Savo islands) is full of reefs, beaches, and reminders of the Second World War, such as bunkers and sunken boats or planes.

Temotu province still keeps traditional beliefs and customs. In Ulawa there are species of birds that are not found anywhere else in the world. The first European contact was made in Isabel province.


The population of the Solomon Islands (342000) is predominantly Melanesian. Solomon Islanders are Negroid and Australoid, 9% urban and 91% rural.


The official languages of the Solomon Islands are English and Solomon Pidgin, but 87 other distinct local languages and dialects are spoken.


The Solomon Islands is a parliamentary state within the Commonwealth divided into 4 administrative districts. Its legislature is a National Parliament. The Government leaders are Sir George Lepping (governor-general) and Solomon Mamaloni (prime minister)

Agriculture is the mainstay of the islands’ economy ($510 per capita [1985]) but people also work in public services (30%), trade, transport, communications, manufacturing and construction. They import foodstuffs, consumer goods, machinery and transport materials from Japan, Australia and the United Kingdom; and they export timber, copra, palm oil, cocoa and marine shells.

There is only one university in the whole country, and just 60% of the adult population is literate. There are 729 hospital beds and 32 doctors. The main illnesses are malaria (caught from mosquito bites), tuberculosis and leprosy. 43/1000 children die at birth.

There are no railroads in the Solomon Islands, but three major ports and three major airfields with their own Solomon Airlines.

The climate is tropical, with coastal day temperatures averaging 28ºC. The dry season is from April to November.

The Solomon Islands dollar is valued at $3.30 = US $1.00.

The flag is blue over green divided by a diagonal yellow band, with five white stars on the top. The national anthem is called "God Bless our Solomon Islands" and the national day is the 7th of July, Independence Day.


The origin of Melanesian people is uncertain, but the Solomon Islands were probably settled by Neolithic people from Southeast Asia. Archaeological evidence shows that people from the Bismarck islands went to Polynesia and became the ancestors of those who later returned to the Solomon Islands.

In 1568, Spanish Alvaro de Mendaña arrived in Guadalcanal. He discovered gold on it and he thought he had found the source of King Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. He gave Spanish names to the islands but the hostility of the indigenous population prevented European settlement for a while.

In 1893 a British protectorate was established over the Southern Solomons. The Santa Cruz group was added in 1898, and in 1900 Shortland was transferred by treaty from Germany. By this year the present political composition had been established.

After the Second World War, an opposition to the British called the Marching Rule Movement begun. Self government was permitted in 1976, and two years later the country became independent. The head of state was the British Monarch, and the first prime minister, Peter Kenilorea, was elected from the National Parliament and lasted 10 years.

In 1986 the islands were devastated by Typhoon Namu.


95% of the people are Christians.

Until a hundred years ago indigenous people practised cannibalism, head-hunting, kidnapping, slavery and open sorcery, but old customs and practices turned to the "true God and creator of the Universe". ICI University aims to "disciple people in the Word of God".


The art of Melanesia has a sculptural and pictorial tradition, but artworks are often combined with music, dance, and oral literature. Melanesian artists work on social and religious themes. They are cultural forms resulting from the creative manipulation of movements, sounds, words, or materials.

Before the European contact the use of metal was unknown; they used tools made of stone, bone shell, shark teeth and fish skin. After Europeans reached the islands Melanesians got more efficient metal tools for wood carving and new visual images. Trade goods such as blankets, bark cloth, basketry or wooden containers were produced for sale.

But the introduction of Christianity put an end to the production of images, and those that already existed were destroyed by missionaries and converted islanders. Today the production of images of the old gods has been revived for sale to tourists. Also basketry and bark cloth have now become high-quality crafts sold as souvenirs and as decorative objects.

The traditional arts of Melanesia can be best understood in relation to political and social values. The society was divided into small independent groups headed by a bigman. The creation of artistic work was associated with the ceremonial cycles: passage rites, funerals, warfare with another group etc. Each social group had its own traditional art forms, so we can find a large number of different styles of masks, costumes, musical instruments, or representations of ancestors and legendary figures.

The artworks have a strong expressionism and vivid interplay between line and colour, it is a highly emotional and dramatic art.

Once their ceremonial functions were over, many art objects were destroyed, which limits our perception of Melanesian artistic traditions. Moreover, artworks had a different appearance because they were decorated with feathers, leaves, etc.

In the Solomon Islands we can find carved shell-discs and kapkaps.

The art of Melanesia has such a spontaneous character and creative individuality that it has been imitated by the German expressionists and surrealists.



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Last updated: Tuesday, 20 January 2004