‘Nguzu Nguzu’ – Solomon Islands’ unique icon

29/03/2016

<em>Hirita Bata’anisia from the Solomon Islands, interned at the Auckland office of Pacific Islands Trade &amp; Invest recently. Prior to her departure to Honiara at the end of her internship*, Hirita, aka Angeline, wrote this piece wrote on one of her country’s iconic handicrafts especially for <strong>Pacific Periscope</strong>.</em>
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<img class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-13905" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/rsz_e23373aa_big-300x201.jpg" alt="rsz_e23373aa_big" width="300" height="201" />The Solomon Islands is known to have some of the best wood carving in the South Pacific. Drawing inspiration from their cultural heritage and natural environment, talented carvers from Roviana and Marovo of the Western Province have beautifully carved out various intricate art pieces of all shapes and sizes ranging from feast bowls, ceremonial clubs, statues of gods, spears, canoes, animal totems such as fish, sharks, dolphins, among others.

The popular types of wood that are used in wood carving are the high quality kerosene wood which is found in the swamps that is very hard and free of insects. Other woods are dark ebony as well as pinkish rose wood. These wood pieces are skilfully crafted into carvings that typically portray the tribal warfare and canoeing heritage of the Solomon Islands.

The Nguzu Nguzu (pronunciation nuzu nuzu) is one of the most striking pieces of craft that is well known nationally and a favourite among international tourists. The small figure head carving is a totem for the people of Western Province, its origin traces back to ancient days of warfare, which saw it donned on canoes (Tomoko) as a form of ancestral protection and guardian against the water spirit (Kesoko), as they sought to conquer surrounding islands.

The making of the Nguzu Nguzu journeys through various intricate processes, not only is it time-consuming but a painstaking form of fine art requiring an eye for visual beauty. It begins with the carver selecting premium wood typically ebony and Kerosene wood. Once the Nguzu Nguzu takes shape, the carver carves out grooves on it which is inlaid with white nautilius shell pieces. After the figurehead is hand carved it is varnished and oiled to give it a glossy appearance.

For these local carvers- carving is a means of earning a living by selling to tourists.

Today, the Nguzu Nguzu has become a national icon of Solomon Islands that is featured on the country’s $1 coin and used in special national celebrations.

Wood carving is a remarkable creative arts industry of the Solomon Islands indeed a lovely expression of their rich and diverse culture.

<em><img class="wp-image-13769 alignright" src="https://pacifictradeinvest.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/hirita-300x200.jpg" alt="hirita" width="146" height="97" />*The internship was part of the Undergraduate Student Summer Internship initiative, which the New Zealand Government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFaT) offers in cooperation with the Pacific Cooperation Foundation (PCF).</em>