Local Chief on a mission to preserve Solomon Island culture
A Solomon Islands Chief from the East Kwaio region in Malaita Province is on a mission to save his traditions and culture from extinction.
A Solomon Islands chief from the East Kwaio region in Malaita Province is on a mission to save his traditions and culture from extinction.
As part of this, Chief Esau Foofafimae Kekeubata completed a three-week training on scientific plant collection and preservation skills in Cairns in Australia.
As Koroi Hawkins found this enabled him to collect, preserve and identify rainforest plants that are traditionally used for food and medicine in his home province.
Chief Esau was hosted in Cairns by the James Cook University and the Australian Tropical Herbarium, where he says he has learned modern science techniques in order to preserve the ancient knowledge of his people.
ESAU FOOFAFIMAE KEKEUBATA: It's amazing for me when I look under the microscope and I can see all the trees and one of the oldest plant where I look into is about a hundred years ago so, but still, is still alive or still preserve in the herbarium here so this is amazing for me.
Supporting this vision is Dr David MacLaren from the James Cook University in Cairns. He says the university hopes the work helps to improve conservation management and protect local biodiversity against outside pressures, including logging and mining.
DAVID MACLAREN: Well we're linking very closely with Chiefs who are establishing a cultural centre deep in the Mountains of Malaita called the Kwaio Kwainaisi Cultural Centre. And so what we are going to do is to be able to record stories and that they will be stored at the cultural centre, these will be in local language and they also be available for anybody in the community to be able to come and access at anytime.
The kind of knowledge that Chief Esau is trying to preserve relates to rainforest plants used in East Kwaio for food and medicine as well as some unconventional uses of trees that are common throughout the Pacific.
ESAU FOOFAFIMAE KEKEUBATA: Noni tree is used for weaving, they use the bark of the tree or the root of the tree we boil it and then, put it in a bamboo and boil it and then we have to colour, use for dye like a dye for comb and other things like Obi (traditional ornament usually a bracelet) or other stuff.
At the core of his work, he says, is a simple ethos and that is that children are losing the connection with their culture and he says his work is so that should they need to find it again, it will still be there. (pidgin Translation)
ESAU FOOFAFIMAE KEKEUBATA: So it's important for us to learn our culture, in the knowledge that we have to help our own country, rather than taking on foreign things and then losing that which is ours. So these are two main things that we look at to help us and to help our future generations or else we lose our customs.
Chief Esau returns to Solomon Islands this week where he will trek once again into the rainforest covered mountains of East Kwaio and continue his work, using knowledge from the future to preserve knowledge from the past.
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