Wednesday, 19 March 2008 1:47 PM

The Traditional Comb of the Kwaio People

The Kwaio people represent one of the many cultural groups within Malaita Province. Like many other cultures, specific ornaments are still in existence representing a way of life in the past.

Speaking with one man from Kwaio, Mr. Gannet Balausi said that one of the ornaments, once very common in Kwaio was a hand crafted hair comb.

Mr. Balausi said that the custom comb is called 'Comb Hahao' and it was often worn during important ceremonies and big feasts held in their villages in the olden days.
He said that they named the comb according to how they make it, "Hahao means weaving, because we used the same vine on the top of the comb to weave custom baskets," he explained to Solomon Times.

He said that the tree that is used to make the comb is called 'Mamawa', a tree that they plant especially for the making of the custom comb. "In the olden days, there were no scissors and knives, so our old people came up with the idea to make a custom comb," he said.

He said that when they cut the trees to make the custom comb, they used sharp stones as knives, 'Ila' in his native tongue. "After we make the combs, we weave the top of them with the 'Lata vine' then we use the stone knife to scratch it to make it smooth," explained Mr. Balausi.

Mr. Balausi said that they weave using bones taken from the wings of flying fox, a traditional substitute for the needles we know today.

Mr. Balausi said that the main celebration is the memorial of their father's death; they used to wear the custom comb with other different custom decorations and prepare a big feast to thank the men who bury the deceased.

"For example, if my father died, I am the one to thank the men of my village and I will bring home money or custom money and one live pig for the men," he explained to Solomon Times.

The comb was also used by chiefs in the village and even young people in the village especially boys.