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  • Jasmine Navala Waleafea

Unearthing Pacific Literature: Talemaot Solomon Stories of Peace and Conflict

Words by Jasmine Navala Waleafea (she/her)

The earliest form of literature was said to be cuneiform scripts on clay tablets, created by ancient Mesopotamians in 3400 BC. Hundreds of years on, and literature has apparently become an integrated part of almost all cultures. Inevitably, literature has played a significant role in preserving the past, explaining the present, and predicting the future of human existence.

Efforts on literary art in the Pacific emerged between 1965 and 1968, with the support of both the University of Papua New Guinea and the University of the South Pacific. Otherwise, early Oceanian literature does exist, however, it was expressed through other art mediums.

Pacific Islanders have long used visual pictographs to communicate. They imprinted unique designs on their tapestries to indicate tribal affiliations. During rituals and ceremonies, they etched calligraphically Tatau onto their skin to indicate these initiations. And they also carved rocks and wood totems to exhibit mysteries of their spiritual realms.

Pacific literatures are very much oral and were transmitted down generations either through a Talanoa with the elders or Kastom Stories (folklore) under the stars. Others were choreographed into prose, chants, lullabies, songs, and dance around evening fires.

These oratorical recollection of wars, plights, valor, genealogy, harvest, and seasons  were like an unclassified curriculum that promoted values subjected to reciprocity, relationship, collectivism, resilience, service, respect, spirituality, leadership, family, and love; and the coexistence of mankind with the environment.

Over the last five decades, Pacific writers with the likes of Dr Konai Helu Thaman, Vincent Eri, Albert Went, Witi Ihimaera, Epeli Hau’ofe, Celestine Vaite and Sia Figiel, have engaged profoundly in this endeavor. The effort of the Solomon Islands Creative Writers Association (SICWA) is also part of this campaign in the pacific. In July of this year, SICWA launched their second Talemoat II: Solomons Stories of Peace and Conflict. I was the editor. 

Talemaot means to ‘speak up’. The book is a collection of perspectives and testimonies on the theme of peace and conflict. Through this process, ordinary Solomon Islanders were given the opportunity to come talk about their experiences and find healing from the misfortunes that had befell them during the Ethnic Tension (1998-2003) and the Honiara political riots of 2021.

While the production of Pacific literature is advancing well amongst both the Polynesia and Melanesia regions, there is more effort needed from Micronesia. Accounts of Oceania and their held perspective can only be expressed well by islanders themselves. Finally, our Pacific literature is key to allowing other cultures to experience our world and be able to appreciate our Pasifika worldviews. By nurturing our imaginations and creativity through our literature, we are only reinforcing a hopeful future for ourselves.


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