CARVING | WEAVING | FURNITURE
Latitude: 5° and 13°S Longitude: 155° and 169°E.
We were blown away when we arrived in Honiara for the first time. The diversity of artisan skills was really beautiful, and for us an inspiring discovery. For those of you that were not aware, Solomon Islands is made up of 922 islands in all, 347 of them inhabited. What struck us was the individual art forms that come from each island. Obviously we did not get to all 922, but there is still time!!
In the first few days we met the Renbell weavers, carvers from Marova Lagoon, the Guadacanal Highland weavers, and cane makers from Isabel Province. The diversity and artistic expression we believe is something to be treasured and encouraged. Their skills are world class, they just need the right pathway to market that respects their culture and social needs, while providing economic empowerment, particularly for the women.
We met our cane manufacturer, Solcane, on a random visit one morning to Honiara, and immediately fell in love! All products produced by Solcane are made by hand. The raw material is sourced locally in Guadalcanal, or shipped directly from Isabel Province, which is where they originate from. Currently, SolCane produces furniture to order however the volume of current orders is not consistent. Their partnership with real.Impact has raised hope for access to new overseas markets and a more optimistic future. Bring on the buyers!
As part of our product development and mentoring process we asked the Renbel weavers to try some new designs and weave cushions, lights and simple works of art, which they did. This was totally new learning for them. These cushions are woven on one side, and then backed with suitable outdoor fabrics. The panels for the cushions were woven to create these really beautiful cushions. We are offering three sizes and two colours - the ‘blonde’ and ‘black and natural’. The craftsmanship and quality is world class! There are 145 urban weavers and approximately 600 still on the islands, consistent production for these communities would mean the world to them.
The Festive bowls are common in all Solomon Island communities and they are used to share food. An interesting fact is that it depends on how important you are as to how many portions of the traditional garden food you receive. It is about sharing wealth and recognition of alliances. Each bowl is hand carved. They are all quite large and present as beautiful authentic statement pieces for your home. Incredibly special!
Ngua (pronounced ‘nuna’ ), is a small island off the coast of North Efate. To get there we caught a ride with the local water taxi taking only 20 minutes. We arrived to find a beautiful island village, incredibly organised, well kept and a wonderful welcoming community. There are 2 villages on the island, home to about 400 people. We met with the head mama, Leisman, and discussed the opportunity of collaborating with them to develop ongoing business. They were thrilled. We loved the brown and cream pandanus weave products, but gave them some ideas about sizing and shapes for the overseas interior design markets, the pattern and colours are unique to them. All the natural fibres are prepared on the island. We loved what they created!
We were introduced to Debbie from the Guadalcanal Province when we arrived in Honiara. She is an inspirational women who is the matriach of her community. Debbie’s people are commonly referred to as Tegehea, meaning the people from the highlands of Guadalcanal Province.
The inspiration to weave Debbie explains “is because it is their heritage and who they are; to keep the skill of weaving alive. The skills have been passed from our ancestors to the new generation, so we must continue the transfer of knowledge and learn as part of the responsibility of the next generation. We would like to partner with real.Impact to promote our weaving ability and seek a wider and stable market, instead of walking around the streets of Honiara trying to sell our products. We would like to work closely with real.Impact to learn the means of trading with the international world.”
We saw this fish trap, yes it is a fish trap!, and we fell in love with it’s sculptural form. Now re-purposed for contemporary living as a light.
Ancient and sophisticated currency systems operated in PNG, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji way before the time of discovery of the Pacific by European explorers. Many of these forms of traditional monies continue to function today, albeit in more modern forms. Shell money and other traditional valuables are still required for ceremonial payments across the Pacific.
From diving for shells to threading them onto locally handmade string, the production process of shell money can take weeks. Men and young boys participate in the shell money production, although the bulk of the work is done by women and girls.