SOLOMON ISLANDS

About Tikopia

 

Tikopia is part of Temotu Province, the most easterly part of the Solomon Islands. It is a remote society that has changed very little with the times. The people have tremendous pride in their customs and see themselves as holding their customs while the Melanesians around them had lost theirs. 

 

           

Four chiefs rule the island of Tikopia and the neighbouring islands of Anuta and Fatutaka. The chiefs hold their court in their huts and they could only be approached by crawling. Anyone wishing to see a chief would crawl up on all fours and touch their nose to their knee, only raising their head once they were acknowledged by the chief. To leave the presence of the chief, the person would crawl away backwards, not being able to turn their back to crawl away because that would have been a great insult.

Tikopians have a complex culture with a strong Polynesian influence. Indeed, it has not been so long since widespread infanticide was considered as natural and necessary as sharing food and learning to dance. It was an idyllic society in which nobody was cold, nobody was hungry, nobody was lonely. It was a strong communal society where the sea was full of fish, the land grew excellent food and the people supported one another. 

New Zealand anthropologist, Raymond Firth, who lived on Tikopia in 1928 and 1929 found a "cult of virginity" and widespread infanticide among the islanders whom he described as gentle and loving. Only the eldest son in each family was allowed to have children and when an unwanted child was born to a single woman who became pregnant or to a married couple who could not cope with another child, the face of the child is turned down. Sometimes, it would have its nostrils blocked by an adult's fingers.

The cult of virginity now only exists to a degree due to a tremendous demographic imbalance resulting from young men going away to work in the Russell Islands or the capital, Honiara, Guadalcanal. Only one girl in three will find a husband if she stays on the island.

    

These residents of Tikopia will know that
their society has changed little with the times.

The Tikopians are tremendously proud of their untouched society in which no evidence of modern day infanticide has been found. They are considered to be the ultimate in communal harmony.

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The Miracle of Tikopia
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Jane Resture
(E-mail: jane@janeresture.com -- Rev. 31th January 2009)