Tag Archives: Pacific Islands

Living in the Trees – The Korowai People

A life of contentment in the rainforest. The Korowai People of West Papua in Melanesia.

Irian Jaya's Kombai and Korowai people live in houses built in the treetops.
Irian Jaya’s Kombai and Korowai people live in houses built in the treetops.

Living in the trees is natural for the Korowai and Kombai people in  the southern eastern Papua. These tribal Melanesians are one of the last people on the planet who survive purely on their natural environment. The Korowai’s are also referred to as the Kolufo and have become known to the world through pictures and documentaries as one of the most amazing architects of tree houses.

The tree house builders survive in the basin of the Brazzan River in large areas of deep rainforest and swampy lowland. They are hunter-gatherers and horticulturists who practice shift-cultivation and have a very rich and an extraordinary oral tradition. They live together in small communities.

Image: BBC Documentary

The higher they built a house, the more prestigious it is. The reason behind this amazing architecture which often reaches up to 100 feet or more off the ground is to avoid floods, insects and diseases. It was also a way to spot tribal enemies as the Korowai themselves had practiced cannibalism in the past.

Sowayen climbing down a “yambim” or ironwood tree after knocking loose a nest of black ants that he uses for fish bait. The Korowai are superb climbers, and get up thick trees like this by gripping vines with their hands and splayed toes. It took him about a minute to get up this tree, and it took Neeld Messler, a rope expert, over an hour to rig this tree with ropes so the photographer could climb it safely. In the lower left corner Sayah is watching. One of their fishing methods is to put a piece of an ant nest in the water and wait for the fish to come and eat the drowning ants. The fisherman hides behind foliage on the river bank, and shoots the fish with a four-pointed arrow. This picture was taken as part of an expedition for GEO Magazine and National Geographic Magazine to document the way of life of the Korowai tribe. Most of the Korowai in these photos had never had prior contact with anyone outside of their language group, and have no material goods from the outside world. They live in tree houses built above the forest floor to protect themselves from outsiders. The Korowai believe that contact with outsiders will bring an end to their culture. Cannibalism has been part of their traditional system of criminal justice to avenge the death of their clansmen, but the practice is dying out and is outlawed by the Indonesian government. The Korowai believe that most natural deaths are caused by sorcery, and must be avenged by the death (and consumption) of the person responsible.
Sowayen climbing down a “yambim” or ironwood tree after knocking loose a nest of black ants that he uses for fish bait. The Korowai are superb climbers, and get up thick trees like this by gripping vines with their hands and splayed toes. This picture was taken as part of an expedition for GEO Magazine and National Geographic Magazine to document the way of life of the Korowai tribe.

The Korowai people build their houses high above the forest floor, and deep in the swampy lowland jungles of Papua.

In the BBC documentary below, you can watch from start to finish, how a Korowai tree house is built.

Cyclone Pam: massive storm bears down on Vanuatu, with 260,000 people in its path

Tropical cyclone Nathan, off Australia’s Queensland coast, and tropical cyclone Pam, near Vanuatu. Image: Australian Bureau of Meteorology/Japan Meteorological Agency

Tonight  Vanuatu is preparing for one of its worst storm predicted to hit the island later tonight. I hope that the people of Vanuatu will be safe as Pam travels through and completes her course. So far, Pam  has  destructed parts of several other small Pacific islands as she travelled down south.

The Guardian reported, the capital of Vanuatu went into lockdown as the “once-in-a-lifetime” storm bore down on the South Pacific island nation, threatening up to a quarter of a million people in its path.

Tropical cyclone Pam, a category five storm with predicted wind gusts of more than 280km/h at its core, was on track to hit the capital, Port Vila, at about 11pm Friday night, local time.

Evacuations across the country followed warnings of a life-threatening weather event bringing storm surges, torrential rain, flash flooding and landslides.

The United Nations agency UNICEF, which along with aid agencies was on the ground with personnel and emergency supplies, warned about 260,000 people were in the potential disaster zone.

Port Vila was in lockdown by 7pm local time, with sources in the area describing “panic” setting in among those who filled 12 evacuation centres, while hotels crammed with guests booked in to shelter for the night ordered them into underground bunkers.

Read more on the Guardian



Island Living in Papua New Guinea

I found this short documentary made by Planet Doc and presented in Spanish. I tried to watch it and work out what the narrator is saying (without the sub-titles). Don’t worry, for you, there are English sub-titles. There is a sequel to this film which I can post later. I believe a cultural heritage of a person can influence what they value is important and how they present that value in a story. There were certain practices of intangible cultures from Papua New Guinea island tribes presented in this film. It stretched from the Trobriand Islands to the islands of New Britain. I don’t understand what the language (Spanish) the narrator is speaking, but watching the pictures, and knowing the culture, I can see what he is trying to show. Perhaps some Spanish speakers here can figure it out what the narrator is trying to say about the shell money he is showing , from both island traditions.  

This is the magic of story-telling. Simply, what you can show your readers. As good writers, we need every possible word that can draw a picture well in our reader’s mind.

The Chivoko Stories of Nature’s Offerings

According to the Chivoko people, anything and everything you need comes from the forest and the sea. Food, building materials, things they could wear, are all provided by Mother Nature. If Mother Nature was destroyed, that would be the end of life. This is a story about a community coming together to make a conservation effort to protect their land, sea, environment, and their heritage for their further generation. What is great about this short film is that the future generation are taking action and are part of this effort.

Written and filmed by the storytellers themselves from Chivoko Village, Northwest Choiseul,  the Solomons Islands. Choiseul Province is the northernmost island in the Solomon Islands double chain archipelago and lies approximately 45 kilometres southeast of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.  

Pacific Islanders draw a line on coal – and climate change

On October 14, I posted a story about 30 Pacific Climate Warriors heading to Newcastle, Australia on Friday October 17 to stage a blockade on Australia coal exporters. The warriors were joined by many Australians on the shores on Newcastle to protest.

In a true Pacific Island spirit the warriors prepare to launch their vessels with traditional Polynesian war dances. Photograph: Mike Bowers/Guardian

Written and from the point of view of one of the protestors and fellow Papua New Guinean, Arianne Kassman, this is an update on what took place last Friday.  Arianne wrote this story for Reuters, Thurs, 23, Oct 2014.

Author Arianne Kassman. Photograph: Mike Bowers/Guardian

Over 700 islands, more than 800 languages and cultures and some 1500 bird species – Papua New Guinea’s diversity is without a doubt unique and the country is home to some of the world’s most beautiful flora and fauna.

Land is one of the most valuable assets in PNG. More than 90 percent of the land is customary land and owned by the people.

I was born and raised in the capital city of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby. I was brought up in a strong Christian family and my traditions and my culture were also a part of my upbringing. I also learned the importance of different cultural obligations I had to my people and the land.

Today, all of this continues to be threatened by climate change. Rising sea levels, coastal flooding and king tides are all too common along the coast and for many of the islands.

This month, I travelled to Australia together with my 30 brothers and sisters from the Pacific to bring a message to Australia that decisions being made are having serious consequences on my home.

Even though it is one of our closest neighbours, Australia’s continued commitment to expanding the fossil fuel industry is destroying my home. Australia is the world’s second largest coal exporter – with plans to triple those exports in the coming years.

Protestors try to block the Rhine as police try to clear a path. Photograph: Mike Bowers/Guardian

It is also one of the world’s largest gas exporters, with plans underway to make Australia the largest exporter in the world. These are plans that are distant from me, but ones that are felt by me and my people.

For Pacific Island communities the connection to the land, and to the sea, is paramount. The land plays a central role in our culture. But now, as sea levels rise, storms increase, and droughts hit, we are losing that connection. The sea, which used to play a central, calming role, in our community has now become a force to be feared.

For the Cartaret Islands this loss couldn’t be felt more. Their entire connection to their land has been lost. And that is the fate being faced by communities all across the Pacific. Just recently king tides hit Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands.

When a king tide hits in those countries there is nowhere to go – the land is literally flooded. These are nations that have already been given a death sentence, told by scientists that within decades their entire land will be under water, that the only connection they will have to their land, and their culture, will be a passport.

This is what the fossil fuel industry is doing to us. Through their reckless plans to massively expand the mining of coal and gas they are trying to lock us into a future of disaster, one of rising sea levels, floods, storms and the destruction of livelihoods and places we call home. It is a future of destruction based on a shallow desire for greater profits.

This year, however, we have decided to no longer let this future be dictated for us. For years we have tried to negotiate with global leaders to halt emissions and stop climate change. But it has fallen on deaf ears.

Traditionally dressed representatives from South Pacific nations push their canoes into the water as they prepare to participate in a protest aimed at ships leaving the Newcastle coal port, located north of Sydney, on October 17, 2014. REUTERS/David Gray

That’s why I joined 30 Pacific Climate Warriors who travelled to Australia, leading a peaceful blockade of the Newcastle Coal Port on October 17. We are calling out the industry for their plans to drown our Islands. And we were joined by thousands of other Australians – those who joined us in Newcastle, or the others who led peaceful occupations of the headquarters of the fossil fuel industry in the week that followed.

We are refusing to drown; we are fighting for our islands, and for a safe climate for all of us. We’re creating a line not in the sand but in the port with traditional canoes that we have built, which no coal ships shall pass.

It is not too late. We can save the Pacific. We must save the Pacific and we must stand up, not only for the Pacific, but for all those around the world impacted by climate change. But to do so we need to stand up to the industry that is willfully destroying our home. We need to stop these destructive plans in their track.

I came to Australia not because I wanted to, but because I had to do whatever it takes to preserve my culture, my traditions, my home, the birth place of my heritage and my identity. I am proud to join the 30 Pacific Climate Warriors, and the hundreds of Australians who are standing up in support.

This is the action we need to take to save our islands. This is the action we need to take to keep our islands above water.


(refer to link below for my previous post on the same subject)


Other pictures, video and story: The Guardian



Pacific Climate Warriors to blockade Australia coal export



By Jemima Garrett and staff

ABC reported that the Pacific Climate Warriors have arrived in Australia today to mount a protest against the Australian coal industry and call for action on climate change. The group made up of young Pacific Islanders represent 13 countries.  They brought five specially made traditional canoes, which will lead a fleet of boats to blockade the coal port of Newcastle. In the group is the daughter of Marshall Islands president Christopher Loeak.

“The coal port is the largest in the world and there are plans for it to expand and we want to bring the message that the expansion is definitely going to have an effect on the islands, not just in the Marshalls but all over the Pacific,” said Milan Loeak.

“We just want to share our stories and make sure that people are aware that the decisions that are being made over here are directly affecting our islands back home.”

The Warriors are in Australia as part of 350.org’s protest of the port, which will culminate in a flotilla of the Warriors and Australian volunteers blocking coal exports for a day on Friday.

Fiji Climate Warrior George Nacewa said he had already seen villagers displaced by rising sea levels. He said the expansion of the port would have wide-ranging effects.

“These expansions will affect us and I live in a generation that has inherited a perfect environment but I am not too sure if I can pass this on to my kids and future generations to come,” he said.

Getting their send-off in Vanuatu, Iasoa Chief Kawea Sausiara told the Warriors the canoes carry a vital message.

“If climate change is not stopped we will lose our cultural activities. This is the message that we must remember. If not, Vanuatu will be nothing more than a wasteland,” he said.


The Truth: Australia does not give a shit!

In my 2008 research into climate change and how intangible cultures of indigenous people in the Pacific islands would be affect many were afraid to see that their future could be in someone else’s land. Here we had a light moment in our discussions about sea level rise and where they would move to; women leaders of Kalal Village, Tami Island, Papua New Guinea. Another low lying island in the South Pacific.
A house in Wanam Village Tami Islands at low-tide showing a basic safety wall made from chopped coconut trunks.


Picture of a graveyard in the Micronesia by one of the leading Climate Change Experts, Dr Chalapan Kaluwin.

Pacific Islands in Climate Change

We in the Pacific Islands, especially small islands less than two metres above sea level, can cry all we want about the 2 degrees change and what we hope to achieve in United Nations Assembly to discuss Climate Change this week but we must accept the truth – Australia does not give a shit. Recent changes in the government and its future goals have clearly ignored all global discussions and actions and in particular, the voices of many small island countries such as Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, and Kiribatis. These countries have always looked up to Australia as the big brother.
Nick O’ Malley wrote this article for the Sydney Morning Herald,  pointing out the fact that Australia has a responsibility.
Messages in support of action to combat climate change are projected onto the side of the UN building in New York on September 20, ahead of the international summit on the issue that begins on Tuesday.Messages in support of action to combat climate change are projected onto the side of the UN building in New York on September 20, ahead of the international summit on the issue that begins on Tuesday. Photo: AP

New York: Before it became dominated by the United States’ effort to build a coalition for war with Islamic State, this week’s General Assembly of the United Nations was to have focused on climate change.

So far Australia has been as vocal about the former as it has been silent on the latter.

Speaking in the offices of his nation’s mission to the United Nations on Saturday afternoon, Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Tony de Brum said he and the leaders of other Pacific island nations were bewildered by what he called “backsliding” on climate change by Australia, which the region had considered to be its “big brother down south”.

“Probably one of the most frustrating events of the past year for Pacific islanders is Australia’s strange behaviour when it comes to climate change,” he said.

Island nations had watched with dismay not only the abolition of the carbon tax in Australia, but also the defunding of scientific advisory bodies, said Mr de Brum.

“It just does not make sense, it goes against the grain of the world.

“Not only [is Australia] our big brother down south, Australia is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum and Australia is a Pacific island, a big island, but a Pacific island. It must recognise that it has a responsibility.

“The problems that have befallen the smaller countries are also Australia’s problems. You cannot remove Australia from the life and blood of the Pacific.”

He said Pacific island nations no longer have time to debate climate change or even to engage in dialogue about how it might be mitigated – they need immediate action.

“[Failure to act] for us would mean disappearance under the sea by the turn of the century.”

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/australia-is-a-pacific-island–it-has-a-responsibility-20140921-10jwdw.html#ixzz3E2SN20IS