Culture and identity
The population of Solomon Islands is predominantly Melanesian, although there are smaller Polynesian, Micronesian, Chinese and European communities. The social structure is extremely diverse and complex and varies from island to island. Different customs – codes of behaviour, systems of land tenure, leadership rules, blends of traditional and world religions, marriage rules and so on – exist throughout the nation. Most communities recognise strong kinship links and obligations with the broad language group.
Carvings can be found throughout the islands, and can range from ornate ritual bowls to miniature canoe souvenirs. Music is played throughout Solomon Islands using bamboo pipes in a variety of forms, played either in sets or singly, as wind instruments or by hitting them with a rubber thong to produce a range of sounds.
The five five-pointed stars on the flag on the background of blue represent the nation’s five administrative units, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. The yellow stripe represents the sunshine and the green the land and forests.
Delivery of healthcare is difficult, given the dispersed nature of the population. Life expectancy is 74 years and infant mortality rate is 16 per 1,000 live births. The leading causes of death in children under the age of five years include acute respiratory infections, diarrhoea, malaria, perinatal complications and injuries. Access to safe water is 79%, while sanitation is only 28%. There are low levels of HIV/AIDS but risk factors are high.
Religion and beliefs
The vast majority of the population (95%) are Christian, but in many cases these beliefs are held alongside traditional ones.
Dances, songs and stories about war, hunting, the natural world or the harvesting of crops from the ‘time before’ are part of everyday life. A common belief is that a dead person’s spirit lives on for a time in sharks, birds or reptiles. This means these animals may become sacred for a time and tabu, forbidden to eat. These animals are treated with reverence and called upon in difficult times.
Food and shelter
Fresh seafood, chicken, green vegetables and tubers cooked in coconut milk or baked in the ground form the basis of most meals. Bush materials, such as thatched coconut leaves and woven bamboo, are used for housing in the villages.