This is where working at a university whose library boasts it has a copy of every book ever published in English, whether digitally or physically, comes in handy. This is where I found some texts for the smaller countries, especially those in the Pacific. A book called Oceanian Journeys and Sojourns: Home Thoughts Abroad edited by Judith A. Bennett came in very handy. It’s a collection of essays looking at how Pacific Island peoples – Oceanians – think about a range of journeys near and far; their meanings, motives, and implications. In addition to addressing human mobility in various island locales, these essays deal with the interconnections of culture, identity, and academic research among indigenous Pacific peoples that have emerged from the contributors’ personal observations and fieldwork encounters.
There’s a couple of essays from different people from the Solomon Islands but for this post I’m going to focus on the essay from Jully Makini; “The duress of movement: Reflections on the time of the ethnic tension, Solomon Islands”.
This essay is about the preceding tension and then the fallout from the coup d’état on 5 June 2000 in the capital city of the Solomon Islands, Honiara. Once again, this is a bit of world history I had never even heard of so it worked as a good introduction and then I went to Google to learn more.
Some of the essay is a personal reaction to the consequences of the coup, with Makini explaining how scared they were in certain situations but equally how some events seemed to happen without her notice. It was relatable in a way as some of the events and tension were so much that it was overwhelming so she just didn’t want to hear about it. For her that was not reading newspapers or listening to the radio, and I know for me when there’s a lot of bad things happening in the world, abroad or closer to home, it can get too much especially now with social media making everything on demand.
The “journeys” talked about in this essay were about the people fleeing Honiara to other towns or even islands. It was kind of fascinating to think about the Solomon Islands as Makini does well to show how it is a collection of islands that each have their own towns and cultures and some people have never moved from an island for generations. On the other hand, others may have moved and had a family on one island but with the ethnic tensions boiling and the threat of violence feel they should leave to go back to an island they haven’t called home for decades.
Makini ponders on this movement between the islands, how it used to be and the different ethnic groups tend to belong to different islands. It’s sad to think about how some people fled their homes and if they did return found their belongings stolen or even their home burnt to the ground. Geographically speaking, they did not go far from home but still everything changed for them.