Wednesday, 16 April 2008 11:41 AM

Process of Grooming a 'Ramo'

Being a chosen leader comes with responsibility and rituals from a young age in communities in the Solomons.

Jimmy Mani from Central Kwara'ae in Malaita Province said it was a requirement in the past that young men join in battles between tribes of Malaita.

"A group of young men from each tribe would go and fight for their people," Mr. Mani said. "Of the group, one man known as the 'ramo' will lead the tribe warriors".

He said within their community "a young boy from the village is often chosen to lead the tribe".

Mr. Mani explained that being a chosen leader comes after major preparations "before he is fit to be the 'ramo', which means he has the power".

He said the interesting part of the whole cultural procedure is when "the chosen man will go through some rituals to call on our ancestors".

"There's this particular bark of a tree in the jungle that is always used to burn and as believed in the past, the smokes from the bark will carry their voices to the ancestors".

Mr. Mani explained that each ancestor represented different areas in the warrior's preparation to make him a reliable ramo.

"One ancestor will give strength to the young man, the other will make him attractive to the eyes of the village, one gives him knowledge to know what his roles are and another one gives him peace in times of battle," he said.

Preparations take a whole year and no one in the village is allowed to see him.

"The young man will for the duration live in isolation in a custom house allocated for him during his trainings and preparations to be a ramo."

Asked if the ban to see people included family members, Mr. Mani said that "family members were also not allowed to see him or even give him a visit for the whole year".

The allocated house was very far from the main village, so the ramo would live in complete isolation.

Solomon Times was informed that after all the custom rituals, the young man would then be trained to fight.

Mr. Mani said that outstanding self defense will convince the trainers that the young man was possessed by the ancestors and that "he is now ready to become a leader".

A declaration of a ramo would be followed by a big feast to celebrate the emerging of a leader.

"To show appreciation to a ramo, people and relatives would throw presents, or shell money, at his feet as a gesture of appreciation and happiness," Mr. Mani said.

Warrior aside, the ramo will also be trained to dance "because after the year-long preparation, a dancing procession will be led to the main village by traditional dancers and the ramo will be the one dancing in the middle."

This would be his first public appearance after one year of isolation, and a house will be prepared in the main village to welcome him back into the community.

"He will live alone in the house and his family will give him food but were not allowed to enter his house," Mr. Mani said.

Following all the feasting and celebrations, the ramo is ready and waiting for the hard task ahead of him, stepping into the battle field for his people.

###TIME###