Sunday, November 11, 2018

SOMALIA: THE FOOD


We made it through another election. There were some disappointments, but there were some surprises. Quite a few women, people of color, and LGBTQ candidates won their office – not to mention that Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American to win a Congressional seat.

This will make a good breakfast tomorrow.
It seem fitting that it fell in line with cooking food from Somalia today. The first thing I made was Malawah, or a Somali crepes. In a bowl, I mixed all the ingredients together: 2 c flour, 2 ½ c milk, 2 eggs, 1 Tbsp sugar, ½ tsp cardamom, ½ tsp ginger, and a pinch of salt. Once everything was mixed together, I heated up my skillet and poured a little oil in it to heat. I ladled some batter onto the skillet and swirled the skillet to spread out the batter to thin it out. I apparently didn’t mix things well enough because my batter was still a little lumpy. Once it started to brown on one side, I flipped it to brown the other side. When they were all done, I served this with butter and honey on top. I thought these were fantastic. I was initially a little worried about the cardamom/ginger flavor being too much, but it was just right and blended well with the honey.

I was a little leery about crab and tomato together, but it was actually pretty good.
The main dish today is Somalian Crabmeat Stew. I started this with sautéing some diced onions, curry powder (I just used some leftover xawaash spice mix that I had prepared for the nafaqo below), ginger, salt, and crushed red pepper, letting this simmer for a few minutes before pouring in about 20 oz of diced tomatoes (I used the kind that had green chilies in it). Once that had cooked down for about 10 minutes, I added in my chunked crabmeat and let it cook down for another 10 minutes. I served this over rice. Even though I cut my spices down, it was still a little spicy because of the crushed red pepper. I thought it was excellent.

I love Scotch eggs, and this vegetarian version was fire!
To go with this, I made Nafaqo, a Somali vegetarian version of Scottish eggs. The first thing I did was peel some potatoes and boil them, mashing them slightly when they were cool. Then I added a little xawaash spice mix (a Somali blend of cumin, coriander, sage, black pepper, fenugreek, turmeric, ginger, cardamom, coves, nutmeg, cinnamon), black pepper, turmeric powder, and flour. I mixed everything together again so that it was well combined. In the meantime, I hardboiled 5 eggs and peeled them when they were cool. To put this together, I put a little flour in one hand, spread out some of the potato mix, placed a cooled and peeled egg on top and wrapped the potato around the egg. Then I rolled it in a little flour before frying it in vegetable oil until it turned golden brown. After they drained and cooled on paper towels, they were ready to eat. I really liked these, but my daughter had a differing opinion. I would definitely make these again.

Overall, this was amazing!
I thought this was a good meal. But my son would hardly touch it, and my daughter only ate half. I guess I’ll have some leftovers for tomorrow. For a country that has been in the news for a myriad of negative things, it’s good to read positive things from Somalia and Somalis around the world. True, there’s a lot of instability still, but as Fred Rogers said, “Always look for the helpers.”

 Up next: South Africa

Saturday, November 10, 2018

SOMALIA: MUSIC AND DANCE






In most Western music traditions, they use a heptatonic scale. In other words, a seven-note scale. However, much of Somalian music is based on the five-note scale called the pentatonic scale (imagine just playing the black keys on a piano). I typically think of the pentatonic scale as sounding "Asian" since a few music traditions in Asia utilize it. However, there are many other musical traditions around the world that are based on the pentatonic scale as well. It shares many commonalities with the music of nearly areas like Ethiopia and Sudan and even the Arabian Peninsula.

Somali music also utilizes many similar instruments as well. First of all, they use quite a variety of percussion instruments from different kinds of drums (like mokhoddon, massondhe, jabbu, and yoome) as well as different clappers made from metal (shagal) or wood (shanbaal), rattles (shunuuf) and xylophones (tenegyo). There are stringed instruments like lyres (shareero), lutes (kinaandha, oud), a one-stringed violin (seese), and a thumb piano (similar to an mbira maybe?) called a madhuube. Also heard in Somali music are a variety of wind instruments such as double clarinets (sumaari), flutes (malkad, siinbaar), horns (gees-goodir), and trumpets (fuugwo).



There are many different kinds of traditional dances in Somalia, and many of them vary based on region. A good portion of these dances have a basis in mimicking everyday life for them, but there are also dances that encompass folklore and historic tales. One of the most widely known dances is the Dhaanto dance. This dance mimics the movements of the camel, but is also steeped in Islamic poetry. Originally, it was specifically a dance from the Darod tribe of the Ogaden clan; however, it was revived during the early part of the 20th century as a way to rally the soldiers. Other dances found in areas of Somalia include the Wilwile (a warrior dance of the Issa people), the Jaandheer (from the Isaac tribe of Somaliland and eastern Ethiopia), the Saylaci dance (a Suufi-inspired dance of the Samaroon/Gidabursi clan), and the Niiko dance (from the Hawiye people).


The origins of what we call popular music began to form during the 1930s, and within the next decade, lyrics based on the qaraami style of poetry popularized by Elmi Boodhari became the thing. In fact, it's still popular today. (Some things are timeless, right? I still listen to American music of the 1930s and 1940s.) Today many musicians and bands have mixed traditional styles with the modern styles of rock, pop, jazz, and even other world styles like reggae and bossa nova.

Aar Maanta
I found several artists on Spotify that I sampled. The first was Aar Maanta. I liked what I heard from him. It was kind of chill, with a reggae feel at times and uses strings and horns in much of his music. I’m not even sure what I’d call it, but I just know that I like it.


Yasminah was an R&B musician I listened to who’s actually a Somali-American. She kind of reminds me of Kenza Farah, except her songs are all in English (at least the ones I heard). I liked the few songs I listened to.

And then I listened to Dur-Dur Band. Very much of an older style that reminds me of an African blues style and funk at times. The instruments I noticed is their use prominent use of the bass guitar and the organ in the background. They even have a song called “Dab” which I showed my almost-10-year-old son who dabs All. The. Time.

K'naan

I finally listened to K’naan, a Somali-Canadian rapper. I loved it! I have heard of him but maybe only to the extent of seeing his name. He definitely uses a lot of African styles and themes mixed into his music. Many of his songs seem to use rock and funk and other styles as the basis underneath it all – kind of like what Bliss N Eso does.

Maryam Mursal
Another musician whose music seems to integrate some funk and folk rock influences here and there is Maryam Mursal. The vocal styles are still definitely steeped in African and Arabian techniques, but it’s interesting to listen to the merge of several cultures.
Waayaha Cusub
Finally, I listened to Waayaha Cusub. This group mixes Middle Eastern styles with some hip-hop. They do a good job at blending the rhythms of the vocal lines with the instrumental melodic lines. In listening to their music, they span from sounding like club mixes to more chill adult contemporary.

Up next: the food

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

SOMALIA: ART AND LITERATURE


The Somali people have been creating art since they arrived in the area. Evidence of rock art has been found in many areas, especially in the northern parts of Somalia. They were probably some of the few parents who encouraged drawing on the walls. Some of the best examples we have in not only Somalia, but in Africa on a whole is found at Laas Geel. These pre-historic drawing depict dog-like animals, giraffes, and cows (that were in ceremonial robes – must be very special cows!) alongside humans.



As Islam became more widespread, artistic subject matter changed with it. In Islam, it is strictly advised not to create art that depicts people or animals. I've never understood this, but I read that it may be tied to the creation of a human being, even if it's just a drawing. (But then, how do they explain actual birth?) The reasoning is lost on me, but it is what it is. So, many artists adapted and created their art in different ways. Islamic art tends to be more geometric and often in the form of tessellations.
 
One of the ways they did that was through metalwork. Gold and other metals have been used in jewelry making, which was also seen as a show of wealth and status. Intricately designed knives and daggers are also common among men. And at one time, Somalia was a leader in the textile industry. Mogadishu in particular was a central hub for textiles for nearly 700 years up through the late 19th century.

If you are a carver in Somalia, you are quite respected as an artist, even today. Wealthy families used to employ carvers who specialized in exotic woods and stones like marble to create elaborate homes worthy of being a museum. However, artisanal woodcarving is also a key occupation among nomadic tribes. A good carver created everyday objects like combs, spoons, and other utensils to more complicated structures like an aqal (a portable nomadic home). Today, they use modern equipment to help make the process go a little faster. (Ain't nobody got time to do that by hand.)

The ancient Somalis also built pyramids for burials in the same style as the Egyptians. Their homes were also built in the Egyptian style by building courtyards and stone walls around them. As Islam began to spread, its influences on architecture also took hold by its use of arches and geometric designs.
Somali-American painter Abdulasis "Aziz" Osman
And while painting and other art forms, like fashion design or photography, may not necessarily be pushed as an art form Somalia (depending on how conservative your area or family is, of course), Somalis living in diaspora around the world have embraced it as a way to express themselves, their culture, and dealing with events that led up to their leaving. Art students in the US (especially Minnesota), Canada, and many areas of Europe depict scenes of Somali life and history not only as a way of teaching others about Somali, but also as a way of teaching Somali children born here of their own history.

Tabayin al-Haqa'iq li Sharh Kanz al-Daqa'iq
Early Somalis not only fell in love with poetry but excelled at it to the level of them being regionally known for their poetry. Somalia is known for many of its examples of Islamic literature that began to flourish around the 14th century. Two works that are highly celebrated in the Islamic world is the Tabayin al-Haqa'iq li Sharh Kanz al-Daqa'iq, written by Uthman bin Ali Zayla'i during the 14th century and Muja'mut al-Mubaraka by Shaykh Abdullah al-Qalanqooli in 1918.

Muhammad Abdullah Hassan
However, not all poetry is strictly religious in nature. There are other poets who write about history, epic battles, love, and other themes. A couple of poets to know would be Muhammad Abdullah Hassan (known for his poem "Gaala Leged" ["Defeat of the Infidels"]) and Elmi Boodhari (known for his poem "Qaraami" ["Passion"]).


Somali literature wasn't just relegated to poetry. They did branch out. Different kinds of folktales were told to children growing up. These stories were passed down from generation to generation. Some stories were more like fables, designed to teach kids lessons about how to behave, through both negative and positive reinforcement. Some of the more common folktales include "A Lion's Tale" (two Somali immigrant children struggle to adapt to their new life), "Dhegdheer the Cannibal Woman" (told to children to convince them the importance of discipline), "Caraweelo" (used to teach young girls the "dangers" of being overly feminist), and "Coldiid the Wise Warrior" (a warrior who avoids all violence).


Today, there are many Somali writers, publishing works from Islamic/religious works to poetry to more secular novels. From the time the Somali language also adopted using a modified Latin script during the 1970s, many more Somali authors began being published on the international scene. One of the most well-known Somali authors is the award-winning Nuruddin Farah. He's known for his books From a Crooked Rib, Links, and Maps. Another novelist of note is Farah Mohamed Jama Awl, known for his novel Ignorance is the Enemy of Love. Mohamed Ibrahim Warsame "Hadrawi" is a poet often considered Somalia's answer to Shakespeare. Another award-winning Somali poet and novelist who lives in Italy (and is published in Italian) is Cristina Ali Farah. (Farah must be a common name in Somalia or something.)

Up next: music and dance

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

SOMALIA: THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE

If you've ever seen the movie or read the book Black Hawk Down, you'll know about Somalia's civil war and political struggles of the early 1990s. I watched it when it first came out. I'm not super huge into war movies, mostly because I'm not a fan of war. I remember it being "based on a true story," which I found out later was up for debate. The main issue was that the movie told the story from an American point of view, so it tended to change other people's likenesses and distort some of the facts of what happened. It practically implied the Americans saved the day all by themselves, which wasn't exactly the case. In fact, even many of the American soldiers who were there dispute the way the film portrayed the events.




Somalia means "land of the Somalis," the majority ethnic group in this area. However, where the term Somali comes from exactly still remains uncertain. Some historical linguists think it might be related to the phrase sac maal, meaning "cattle herders," or it might possibly stem from Samaale, a legendary patriarch.



Somalia lies on the Horn of Africa, an area of northeastern corner of the African continent that sticks out into the Indian Ocean/Arabian Sea. It has the longest shoreline of any African country and shares a border with Djibouti to the north, Ethiopia to the west, and Kenya to the southwest. The southern half of the Ethiopian border is somewhat disputed. The country is divided into different regions, almost like states, but instead of fighting for autonomy with the country like a state or province would hold, they're fighting for autonomy outside of the country. Maybe I'm wrong on that. It’s a little confusing. In the north, you have the regions of Somaliland and Puntland. Below that you have Galmudug and a Central Regions State. In the southern regions, you have a South West State and Jubaland that borders with Kenya. Somalia, no surprise, is warm and hot most of the year, depending on your proximity to the equator. However, in some of the highland plains and mountainous areas, the temperature can drop below freezing in December. Depending on where you are, the climate is generally arid or semi-arid, with definite rainy and dry seasons. (Not many options here. As half-Scottish/half-German, I would probably just burst into flames.)

People have inhabited this area of Africa since the Paleolithic era, or roughly about 50,000 years ago. The ancient land of Punt was a thriving society that traded with Egypt, Greece, India, and other European and Asian peoples. They were really known for their gold, frankincense, spices, ivory, and myrrh. Islam was introduced to the area, and the Masjid al-Qiblatayn mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Africa. Through the 16th century, port cities in Somalia were among the most popular trade spots in Africa with long-established trade relationships between many countries and kingdoms. It was a hub for the most prized of goods, a connection between west and east. And although the areas in what is now known as Somalia have been included in many different sultanates and kingdoms, the most disrupting one was after the Berlin Conference of 1884, otherwise known as the Scramble for Africa. Certain European countries began to carve out bits of Africa for itself to colonize, and by "bits of Africa," I mean entire countries and regions. As expected, it didn't go over well. The Italians moved in and called it Italian Somaliland and brought in their fascist rule. However, the British invaded and took over several areas controlled by the fascist Italian government. After WWII, British kept control of what was British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland as one of their protectorates. As things started changing in Africa, the two protectorates joined together and were finally granted independence in 1960. There was quite a bit of turbulence and conflict during the early years as an independent country, which finally resulted in a civil war that began in 1991. The part of this civil war when American troops and others coordinated a raid trying to capture the military leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid was what the brunt of Black Hawk Down was based on. Although there has been a push for more stability in Somalia, there are still some issues with political stability and pirate attacks (even though it has really dropped in recent years) as they struggle to get out from being a “fragile state” country.


With nearly 2.4 million people, Mogadishu is the capital and largest city in Somalia. The name comes from Persian meaning “seat of the Shah.” However, the locals call it Xamar (or Hamar), meaning “tamarind.” (I thought calling a city by a fruit was weird until I remembered The Big Apple.) Although the city has taken quite a hit through its many conflicts, civil wars, and disturbances over the years, it remains the center of the government, commerce, higher education, transportation, media, and sports & culture. Famous residents include the supermodel (and widow of David Bowie) Iman and award-winning rapper K’naan.


For many centuries, Somalian port cities served as major trading hubs between Europe, Africa, the Arab Peninsula, and Asia (mainly India). Fast-forward to today, their economy has shown growth and improvement even after years of civil war, which usually wrecks the economy. Their economic drivers mainly include agriculture (in particular, livestock), telecommunications, and remittances from abroad. Agriculture employs nearly 65% of the workforce, and an estimated 80% of Somalians still live nomadic lifestyles. The nomadic or semi-nomadic communities raise much of their goats, camels, cattle, and sheep. In the post-civil war era, there has been a shift from more government-run industries to more privately run ones. Factories like meat processing plants, canneries, and other manufacturing have been on the rise, especially in the urban areas. There have been some natural gas and oil deposits found as well as deposits of uranium.


Nearly the entire country's popular adheres to Islam, with the majority following the Sunni branch. Sufism, the mystical side of Islam, is also practiced by many people in Somalia. Sharia law, where law is steeped in Islamic principals, is the basis of their legislation. Christianity makes up only a very small percentage here, and that's probably only because of the British and Italian influences. Likewise, followers of other religious ideologies like indigenous animism, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, or just people with no religious affiliation also come in very small numbers here.


The two official languages of Somalia are Somali and Arabic. Somali, the native language of the Somali people, is a Cushitic language and related to other nearby languages like Afar, Oromo, and Saho. The Somali language has went through several scripts, but its current script is actually one that was developed for it and introduced in 1972. Arabic, however, became an official language from its history with the Arab countries through trade and a mutual religion. Two minority languages spoken in certain communities are Bravanese (a Swahili dialect of the Bravanese people) and Kibajuni (a Swahili dialect of the Bajuni people).


While there are certainly many disturbing facts concerning Somalia’s poverty, civil unrest, and lack of resources, it’s a country rich in history, traditions, and culture. I’m excited to take a closer look at this country that tends to only make the news when it’s something unsavory. So, let’s look at all the other things that’s going on.


Up next: art and literature

Monday, October 22, 2018

SOLOMON ISLANDS: THE FOOD

It's been a whirlwind weekend to wind down my kids' fall break. The weather is finally acting like fall, and I'm grateful we're in the final weeks before Election Day. Those ads are getting super annoying at this point. We finally finished putting together Halloween costumes, and the last year of my 30s begins in less than a week. The trees are finally starting to turn colors slightly, but I think they're about a week behind since we had such a warm start to fall -- which is good for me because traditionally, the peak season for central Indiana might FINALLY fall on my birthday instead of the week before.
I hate wasting food, but this one just couldn't be salvaged. You can't win them all. 

Even thought it's crisp outside now, I'm expanding summer a bit by making food from Solomon Islands. The first thing I made was Cassava Pudding. Unfortunately, this one goes into the same category as the wine venison for not turning out good at all. First of all, it was hard to find a bread recipe specifically from Solomon Island. So, I found this recipe, and instead of 2 lbs of cassava roots and grating it myself, I used tapioca flour, which is similar to cassava. I put in 4 c of tapioca flour, 2 c of brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp baking powder, and 2 c of coconut milk into a bowl and mixed well. Then I stirred in 2 eggs and 6 Tbsp of melted butter and stirred again until it was smooth. While stirring, I poured in a cup of hot water and stirred until everything was incorporated. I poured this batter into a glass baking dish that I had sprayed down with cooking spray and put it in a 350F oven for 45 minutes. It didn't seem like it was really set up, so I left it in a little longer and took it out to set. It smelled good because of the cinnamon and brown sugar, but the texture was very... gelatinous. The texture reminded me of Japanese mochi. My daughter tried one bite, and she put it back. I just think this is just not a texture we're used to. I know it's something found in many Asian cuisines; American cuisine only uses this texture in fruity sweet desserts. So maybe that's it. And maybe using the tapioca flour wasn't the best ingredient. It got a huge zero from us.

I had this for my lunch today. Still good after two days.
However, the main dish was Devilled Chicken, and it was much better. I boiled a bunch of chicken thighs and then removed them from the water. Coating them with some flour, I then lightly fried them, and set them off to the side. After I got done with the chicken, I lightly fried some minced garlic and vegetables: I used half a bag of frozen mirepoix mix and half a bag of frozen three-pepper blend (green, red, yellow bell peppers). I put my chicken in my large pot, added in my vegetables, 2 small cans of tomato sauce, 100mL of soy sauce, a vegetable stock cube (I didn't have any chicken stock cubes), a tsp of sugar, and a cup of the chicken broth I reserved from boiling the chicken (you can also use water, but why waste this wonder broth?). I served this with white rice. I really liked this, albeit, maybe I would've added a bit of salt to the sauce or something. There were essentially no spices. I'm not sure what spices are readily available in the Solomon Islands, but I assume they at least have some salt. This dish went over pretty well with most of the family, I'd say.

Green beans are a favorite in my family, so I'll probably reuse this recipe again.
To go with this, I made Bean Curry. I started with the best of starters: sautéing garlic and onions together. Then I added in my own concoction of "curry powder": cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric. (I thought I had some curry powder left, but I must've used it all.) Once I stirred all the spices in with the garlic and onions, I added in a pound of green beans, stirring to coat. I put the lid on my skillet and let it cook down for about 7 or 8 minutes. Once it was done, I took it off the heat and sprinkled a little lemon juice on top. I thought this was really good, except I think some of my onions got slightly burnt, so I gave the entire dish a slight burnt flavor. But overall, I think most everyone liked them.

Well, two out of three ain't bad.
I had a recipe I pulled for a fruit punch drink, but I remembered at the last minute that my blender had burnt up. And on top of that, I didn't have time to chase down a couple of the fruits the recipe called for: a pawpaw (which I had not had before) and a starfruit (which I have). So, I ended up making a fruit salad out of the fruits I bought: banana, watermelon, mango, pineapple, and lime (to squeeze over it so my bananas wouldn't turn brown). I even added some coconut flakes on it to really make it "tropical." It was good, but it was another lesson in learning to adapt. So many times, I pick way more recipes than I have time to cook, or the energy or funds to go looking for odd ingredients, or realize that I don’t even have the necessary equipment to make it. But I hate wasting food, so I will usually find some use for the little bits of ends left over. Food is getting more expensive, and the lessons of frugality our grandparents perfected are certainly coming in handy.

Up next: Somalia

Sunday, October 21, 2018

SOLOMON ISLANDS: MUSIC AND DANCE

I'm not sure why I typically think of panpipes as being an Andean thing in South America. But truth be told, panpipes are used in a variety of cultures all over the world. Panpipe orchestras are a popular ensemble in the Solomon Islands, especially on the islands of Guadalcanal and Malaita. Some of these ensembles have up to ten performers, each using a different tuning. Vocal music, both solo or in groups, is probably at the core of their traditional music and is either sung a capella or sometimes accompanied by different instruments along with the percussion instruments like the slit-drum.

During the early part of the 20th century, bamboo music, made by hitting the ends of cut bamboo tubes with coconut husks, became a popular form of music throughout several Pacific countries. (Now I know where the Blue Man Group got the idea.) By the 1950s, music started to change. Edwin Nanau Sitori, a Malaita-born musician who worked as an electrician, became famous for his song "Walkabout long Chinatown," which became so popular the government considered their unofficial "national song." Today, rock and reggae dominate their musical styles along with a genre known as island music, an ensemble consisting of guitars and ukuleles.


Dance has always been an integral part of the culture of Solomon Islands, like much of Oceania. It’s often accompanied by panpipe or bamboo music. Different islands have their own dances, and there are dances performed by men and ones performed by women. Dances are performed for a variety of purposes (life events, weather events, other ceremonial events, etc.), and the island of Tikopia is probably more known dance enthusiasm.


I listened to the song “Rorogwela” by Afunakwa. It was at the heart of a controversy because this lullaby was sampled in a French pop song, and apparently they never got permission to use it. It’s a simple song, but I can also tell they use quite a few embellishments in their music. It always throws me off when I first hear it until I listen closer.


Probably one of the most widely known musicians from Solomon Islands is Sharzy. His music is like reggae but also makes use of those vocal harmonies that reminds me of some New Zealand music I’ve heard.

Dezine is another one I listened to. It’s like a cross between pop and hip-hop. I liked what I heard. I might give this one a longer listen later on.

There are quite a few reggae musicians here, which makes me happy. The first one I listened to was JahBoy. It’s more of a dance reggae, but not quite dancehall. I would also put 56 Hop Rod in that same category too. I could definitely put this on while driving or working or whatever.

However, groups like Onetox and Jah Roots remind me more of a traditional reggae, without the heavy hip-hop and club influence and with definite upbeats. It’s the little things.  

Up next: the food

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

SOLOMON ISLANDS: ART AND LITERATURE

The culture of the Solomon Islands is a montage of many different ethnic groups, mostly Melanesian group along with some Polynesian cultural aspects as well. Most of these cultural traditions have been passed down from generation to generation, and there is a great respect for maintaining their traditional society. And in many cases, even through modernization, there has even been almost a resistance toward the Westernization of their island cultures. In others, the modern ways of life have melded with their ancient Melanesian/Polynesian styles. The idea of kastom is exactly this integration of old customs into modern society, like growing traditional produce rather than eating imported ones.

 
Similar to the art of other South Pacific cultures, the art here utilizes a number of intricate designs. A good example would be the designs woven into their wicker war shields. Most of the time, it is abstract, geometrical designs, but sometimes it resembles more of a face. Pearl shell inlays were also used in their art, often as a symbol of status but sometimes used in funeral rites. Important people also wore what's called a kap-kap, a type of large shell pendant worn on the chest to signify their importance. Because, you know, it wasn’t evident enough apparently.


One of the things that Solomon Islanders are known for building is a type of canoe called tepukei. This isn't just any canoe though. These are outrigger canoes that are able to navigate the ocean. Similar canoes were shown in the movie Moana. A German anthropologist, Gerd Koch, documented much of this life and even brought back the last of these canoes to display in the Ethnological Museum of Berlin. (I hope he had permission.)

Much of the early literary traditions in the Solomon Islands were oral stories that had been passed down from generation to generation. Many of these early stories fell into the category of myths and legends. One common genre in these myths is origin stories (both human and animal).


Modern literature of the Solomon Islands rose up in the wave of Pacific Islander literature that swept through during the 1960s. As many of the islands were gaining their independence during this time, there was a push for more national identity, and literature was one of those catalysts. With a focus on literature of this region at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, a broader interest among all island nations in this area began to take hold. Creative writing classes starting to pop up, and a  magazine called Pacific Islands Monthly started publishing stories during the mid-1970s, even though it had been around since the 1930s.


Authors of note from the Solomon Islands include John Saunana (a teacher who’s also held various government positions, known for his novel The Alternative, often considered a leading literary figure in Solomon Islands) and Celo Kulagoe (a poet published in a number of newspapers and literary journals, known for his Where Leaves Had Fallen and Raindrops collections). 


Up next: music and dance