My cultural story

My village in Makira is called Tawatana. You can find it here:
https://maps.google.com/?q=-10.192575,161.352086&hl=en&gl=au
It is relatively remote and travelling to it can take at least a day or two from Honiara, depending on how you want to travel.
The distinct language in this part of Makira is called Arosi. I only know a few words.
Makira is also known as San Cristobal.

My late grandfather was Basil Bunaon’e, chief of the Aoba tribe, and my late grandmother was Rebiraha, more commonly known as Rebi or Rabi and custodian of our custom land at Tawatana. Her father came from Malaita.
My middle name, On’e, comes from my grandfather.

Since I left the Solomons with my mum and brother sometime around 1984, I have been back to Tawatana a number of times:
1992 – first time back to the village with my mum and brother. It was quite an emotional visit, particularly seeing my grandparents again. I even had a great grandmother called Taha who was still alive and active at the time, she was estimated to have been born around the turn of the century. What amazing stories she would have had!
1998/99 – stayed about 6 weeks in the village over Christmas ’98. Mum was there for the first couple of weeks. I had met a wonderful girl called Meredith in Brisbane only a few months earlier (Yes that’s the same one, we now have three beautiful kids). I remember carving Meredith’s name into some trees near a creek.
2003 – went back to the village for almost two weeks after my grandmother died. I arrived during the ten day mourning period. My grandmother was the custodian of our traditional land. I have always struggled to understand exactly how the customary land ownership worked but it is matrilineal. Meredith and I were living in Kowanyama, Cape York at the time and after seeing how hard things were for my grandfather, I decided I would build a timber house in the village for him.

Meredith and I were married at Cedar Ck, Samford in dec 2003, at my other grandparents home, where I had lived for many years while in Australia. I tried to bring my dad over for the ceremony, but it ended up not happening.
If we couldn’t bring my family to the wedding, then we would take the wedding to them.
The following year, we decided to have a traditional wedding in my village.
2004/05 – Returned to the village for a custom wedding with mum, dad, Meredith and her parents, Rog and Daph.
One powerful memory I have of the traditional ceremony is the customary frigate bird that was painted in white lime on my back. Frigate birds have great significance in the Solomons. I decided that I would one day have this same traditional marking tattooed on my back.
I also remember listening to the radio while walking up to the bush with Rog when I heard breaking news about the boxing day tsunami that killed 200,000 people.
Will post another entry about this trip. It was very cool. Particularly our visit to the tip of the island, which is the spiritual home of our family and where there are lots of stories of Kakamora. We went to some very interesting caves during the night. Probably best for me not to talk about them.

A week after arriving home, we went to London for a year. Talk about culture shock!
An interesting thing that happened to me in London was that I was caught up in the periphery of the london bombings. You can read about this story at one of my old blogs here: http://brimep.blogspot.com.au/2005/07/london-explosions.html

2007 – another sad return to the village with the passing of my grandfather. My grandfather was the chief of our tribe, the Aoba tribe, and it is customary for this to be passed down through the eldest son. I am the eldest son of my grandads eldest son.
During one of the nightime mourning ceremonies, I witnessed something that I had never seen before. One of the village men started calling out names by memory. I heard my dads custom name at the beginning and then this man spoke for over an hour, calling out name after name. At times he would falter, but other elders and my dad knew what the names were supposed to be, in correct order. I asked my dad afterwards what had happened, this was the oral family tree of my grandfather, starting with him and his children and going back into our ancestors. Absolutely amazing.
I decided recently when thinking about this story that my frigate bird tattoo would be made up of all these names of my family and ancestors.

I haven’t been back to the village since 2007. I have been back to Honiara a number of times since then – 2010, twice in 2013 and twice in 2014.

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