Thursday, 27 March 2008 8:14 PM

Chiefly System in Small Malaita

The chiefly system plays a big part in the local culture of the Solomons, and it varies greatly in a country known for its cultural diversity.

Speaking to a Rural and Indigenous Culture Researcher, John Susupuri said that 'culture' is "a term that means a lot to our people".

As part of the country's rich culture is the chiefly system that continues to exist today.

Mr. Susupuri told Solomon Times that unlike other parts in Malaita, where he comes from follows a chiefly system that is inherited and not through votes.

"For our people from South Malaita in Small Malaita, the chief is not someone who was elected," he explained.

"When someone is born from the chief's tribe, he is born a future chief and that is how it works in our community," he said.

Mr. Susupuri added that they have a motto that is called 'Ala'ani Alahana' meaning 'Destined to Live'.

He said that in their village, a chief is chosen only by inheritance whether or not he is well educated.

"Even if the chosen one has no understanding on how to address the people or how to do things for the people, as long as he inherits the chief blood, he is the chief."

Mr. Susupuri explained that there are people assigned to direct the chief with what to do or to say to the community if he is not capable of applying his chiefly role.

"These people are called the "suala" or "tatahoala", which means the advisors for the chief."

Another man apart from the chief who is to bear whatever is in the way is known as the "tanamamahoe", the great supporter of the village.

Speaking proudly of his culture, Mr. Susupuri said that the chief's tribe also has a security referred to as 'ramo'.

"A ramo is responsible to look after the tribe of the chief, to make certain of their safety," he told Solomon Times.

"We have two parts in Small Malaita and we divide it according to boundaries which we refer to as canoes," he said. "Small Malaita is divided into eight canoes and they have 24 chiefs."

Mr. Susupuri said that the whole Small Malaita has been structured and each canoe has three chiefs.

"Boundaries structured as canoes have chiefs for each point, the front part, one for the centre and the other for the rear part," he explained.

He said that out of the three chiefs, the one in the middle part of the village is the most hard working, "because he is the one to arrange everything in the village and to make everything according to the rules of the village to make things right."

During the interview, he said that out of all the chiefs, there is an overall chief for the whole of South Malaita.

"This head chief, known as the 'Ouou Inemauhi', gives out orders to the ones second to him.

He explained that the head chief is also inherited "from his descendants" and respected by all throughout South Malaita.

Mr. Susupuri said that chiefs alert villages of any happening in the village through "drum beatings that is used as their voice".

"When we hear drum beatings across the villages, we now that the chief wants us to go to the main village," he said.

Such occasions that usually bring the sound of drum beatings include times of celebrations, death in the village and if there is meeting to take place.

Mr. Susupuri revealed that they have different types of rhythm to beat according to the two main languages in Small Malaita.

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