Accepted Paper:

Space and Time in Guadalcanal  


David Ryniker (University of British Columbia)

Paper short abstract:

Due to contacts with European traders in the early 1800s, peoples in Guadalcanal began to move down from the bush and towards the coast and to live in larger groups (villages). Island people often do not have terms for North and South, but often do have terms for "towards the coast" and "towards the bush." The Vaturanga have come to dissect and dichtomize their environment adding a dimesion of time to the directional coordinates. The two environments require different responses and different behaviours.

Paper long abstract:

From the early 19th century the peoples of Guadalcanal had increasingly regular contacts with European traders. This initiated a profound shift in the nature of settlement, a reconfiguration in the pattern of life, and a reorientation of economic life towards the coast and away from the bush. The Vaturanga have four terms for the directions, as we do, but they are not identical to ours. Although they have east and west, for an island people living only 8 degrees south of the equator, north and south are somewhat irrelevant. Instead, the additional directions are to the bush (longa) and towards the sea (tasi). Two hundred years ago, Vaturanga typically lived in small hamlets in the bush. But once trade items became available, people moved down to the coast and formed villages. The coast was also more dangerous, as such, the people of this area converted to Christianity (Melanesian Mission) and began to associate the coast with a new way of life, and the bush with earlier pre-contact practices. Today the demarcation between tasi and longa forms a powerful ideology. Tasi is almost "profane" filled with many modern economic and environmental practices. But longa remains "ancestral" and must be treated with special care. This paper will look at the ways the past and present are symbolically mapped upon the landscape in these directional coordinates, and how this has led to a perception of a dichotomous environment each portion of which requires very different responses.

Panel BH04
Indigenous knowledge and sustainable development (IUAES Commission on Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainable Development)