Book launch: Reef and Rainforest - An Environmental Encyclopedia of the Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands

The book launch took place at UNESCO after the workshop, Biological and Cultural Diversity: The challenge of local knowledge, practice and worldviews, that was organized in the framework of the International Conference on Biodiversity: Science and Governance (24-28 January 2005, UNESCO-Paris). Participants in the launch ceremony, hosted by Norway, included:

Mr Sven Svedman, Ambassador of Norway
Mr Robert Sisilo, Ambassador of Solomon Islands
Mr Ole-Henrik Magga, former Chair, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Mr Walter Erdelen, Assistant Director General for the Natural Sciences
Professor Edvard Hviding, Bergen University
Douglas Nakashima, Head, UNESCO LINKS project

The ceremony began when Ole Henrik Magga instantly captured everyone's attention with his native Saami joik. A joik is a traditional Saami song about a subject that has inspired the singer.

This song was followed by a welcoming address by Mr Sven Svedman who pointed out that although Solomon Islands and Norway would seem at first glance to be so different, they in fact share much in common. For example, both countries are home to indigenous peoples speaking their own language and possessing their own system of knowledge about the natural environment; both share the common concern of maintaining this knowledge as an important element of intangible heritage; both recognise the vital importance of providing educational materials for schools in indigenous languages and with indigenous content. But there is still another link that is particularly relevant to this launch - in the form of the author himself, Professor Edvard Hviding of the University of Bergen who has for the past 20 years been working with the people of Marovo Lagoon in the Solomon Islands to record their distinctive knowledge, practices and worldviews.

Mr Walter Erdelen spoke on behalf of the Natural Science Sector of UNESCO before handing the floor back to Mr Ole-Henrik Magga who returned to give his views on the importance of indigenous knowledge and his current work on the documentation of the Saami language. The floor was then given to Professor Edvard Hviding.

 

© UNESCO-LINKS
Ole Henrik Magga treats the audience to a traditional Saami joik during the Marovo book launch ceremony (January 2005).

The ceremony began when Ole Henrik Magga instantly captured everyone's attention with his native Saami joik. A joik is a traditional Saami song about a subject that has inspired the singer.

This song was followed by a welcoming address by Mr Sven Svedman who pointed out that although Solomon Islands and Norway would seem at first glance to be so different, they in fact share much in common. For example, both countries are home to indigenous peoples speaking their own language and possessing their own system of knowledge about the natural environment; both share the common concern of maintaining this knowledge as an important element of intangible heritage; both recognise the vital importance of providing educational materials for schools in indigenous languages and with indigenous content. But there is still another link that is particularly relevant to this launch - in the form of the author himself, Professor Edvard Hviding of the University of Bergen who has for the past 20 years been working with the people of Marovo Lagoon in the Solomon Islands to record their distinctive knowledge, practices and worldviews.

Mr Walter Erdelen spoke on behalf of the Natural Science Sector of UNESCO before handing the floor back to Mr Ole-Henrik Magga who returned to give his views on the importance of indigenous knowledge and his current work on the documentation of the Saami language. The floor was then given to Professor Edvard Hviding.

©UNESCO-LINKS
Edvard Hviding shares some of his experiences in Marovo with the audience

" […] It is almost unbelievable to me as author. It is surely almost unbelievable to the Marovo people as well were it not for the fact that we had been working together on this project for so many years. I first came to the Marovo Lagoon in Solomon Islands, that some of you saw illustrated today, in my presentation, in 1986. There was the idea already then that there were useful things to be done by inviting an anthropologist to come and work among the people. The fact is, I was very privileged that I was invited by the people to come and work among them because they expressed very simply a need, for bridging in a way, the knowledge and the life of the past and the challenges of the future. […]"

Professor Edvard Hviding concluded his speech by treating the audience to a Marova children's song, that illustrates Marovo wisdom about environmental things.

Marovo Lagoon:
The mud crab song
A child's song to a large mud crab that has just been caught,
It's claws and most of its legs twisted off by the captor,
so that it will not injure people or run away

valuvalu tinamu tamamu pa Hobalito
paddle futively, you the mother and father [of all mud crabs], at Hobalito

tata vura mae ia soa ini pa Hibohibo
the full moon is about to rise at Hibohibo

tata opo ia kakarita pa Kakatana
the mud crab is about to sprawl in the mud at Kakatana

valuvalu tinamu tamamu pa Hobalito
paddle futively, you the mother and father [of all mud crabs], at Hobalito

The song reminds people that if one goes to the place called Kakatana, at the time of year when the full moon rises over the place called Hibohibo, you will then find mud crabs sprawling on the inter-tidal flats and easy to harvest.

© UNESCO-LINKS
[left to right] : Mr Robert Sisilo, Ambassador of Solomon Islands, Mr Sven Svedman, Ambassador of Norway and Mr Walter Erdelen, Assistant Director General for the Natural Sciences, UNESCO.

The formalities of the evening were capped off when Mr Sven Svedman, Ambassador of Norway and Mr Walter Erdelen, Assistant Director General for the Natural Sciences handed over the publication to Mr Robert Sisilo who offered words of thanks in a speech of his own. Ambassador Svedman then invited all present to indulge in drinks and food, offered by the Government of Norway, including plates of thinly sliced dried reindeer meat (a Saami delicacy).

Back to top