15 – 17 July 2010

Chea Village, Marovo Island

After strong winds and rain throughout our stay in Tetepare, we were dreading the island crossing from Tetepare to Marovo Lagoon, New Georgia. We were bracing ourselves for big waves and made sure all our belongings were packed water tight and safely under the tarp. I woke up in the middle of our last night in Tetepare and immediately noticed something – no wind! Went back to bed thinking, maybe, just maybe the seas will be flat. I told Tingo and Yogi we’ll have flat calm seas and they both said we were still sheltered in the lee side of Tetepare island. We could see different patches of dark clouds here and there, but by the time we reached open seas, it was glass flat!!! It was totally unreal. There was rain, of course, but we had a smooth ride all the way to Marovo Lagoon.

Marovo lagoon - calm seas but pouring rain

Marovo lagoon – calm seas but pouring rain

We went all the way to Chea in Marovo Island and stayed in the village's only Guest House. Again it was self serve and very basic but the plus was, it had internet!!!

We went all the way to Chea Village in Marovo Island and stayed in the community’s only Guest House. Again it was self serve and very basic and absolutely remote, but it had internet!!!

The community computer, a solar powered subnotebook Eee PC, had a regal position on the kitchen table. There were instructions and computer lessons in the community whiteboard! WWF SI staff Tingo & Bill used it first and I asked them if there was internet and their answer was YES! We had been cyber deprived for more than a week now and it was good to just quickly check emails. Since we had rains all week long, the computer’s solar powered battery had troubles keeping up with all of our hungry needs. Oh well.

With the computer beeping to say it was low on battery, we all quickly checked emails and logged out

With the computer beeping to say it was low on battery, we all quickly checked emails and logged out

We photographed village life in our stay in Chea. We reached the Community Hall where the traditional carvers brought out their beautiful wares to display and our eyes popped out. They were so beautiful! A very eloquent English speaking carver named Huimes Namusu listened to us give instructions. Once he knew what we wanted, he relayed our instructions to all the carvers in the room.

When we saw these works of art, we immediately set up our studio bringing out our black cloth as a background

Upon seeing these works of art, we immediately set up our studio bringing out our black cloth as a background

There are six types of wood used by carvers from Marovo Lagoon:  the most expensive is the king ebony, a rare black hardwood; queen ebony, less rare but still expensive black and brown streaked wood; kou or kerosene wood which ranges from light brown to rich dark brown depending on which section of the tree is used – pale sapwood or dark heartwood; rosewood, an abundant pinkish wood; abundant coconut tree wood and finally yellowish wood from a jackfruit tree.

A traditional Solomon Islands Warrior made of queen ebony with nautilus shell inlay

A traditional Solomon Islands Warrior made of queen ebony with nautilus shell inlay carved by Huimes Namusu

Another traditional warrior carved out of king ebony with nautilus shell inlay

Another traditional warrior carved out of king ebony with nautilus shell inlay carved by Huimes Namusu

Portrait of an artist Huimes Namusu

Portrait of the artist Huimes Namusu

We asked Huimes if we could photograph them carving and he volunteered himself as our able model. He made a bowl out of piece of coconut tree trunk and after less than an hour, he carved out the structure of a bowl. It was quite amazing so see skill and precision work this ancient art of carving.

In a day Huimes can finish a bowl complete with shell inlay and sanding

In a day Huimes can finish a bowl complete with shell inlay and sanding

We particularly wanted to see how the shell inlay was done. Huimes said they had to buy expensive nautilus shell for this and once he worked the material, I understood why nautilus was their preferred shell to use. The thinness of this ancient mollusk is even all throughout and it was easy to handle and work with.

Huimes carves out a groove from the rim of this coconut bowl to make space for the inlay

Huimes carves out a groove from the rim of this coconut bowl to make space for the nautilus inlay

With the assistance of the sole of his foot, Huimes uses a little saw to cut out the piece of nautilus he needs for the inlay

With the assistance of the sole of his foot, Huimes uses a little saw to cut out the piece of nautilus he needs for the inlay

He uses a thin file to shape the nautilus into the design he wants and glues the piece into the groove of the bowl

He uses a thin file to shape the nautilus shell into the design he wants and glues the piece into the groove of the coconut bowl

Huimes Namusu learned carving from his father at the age of nine. He carves for a living and earnings from his craft feeds his wife and four children. Like majority of the people in Chea and the Marovo area, he is Seventh Day Adventist.  His weekdays are busy with either carving or selling his craft once a week in the nearby Uepi Resort. He and his wife tends to their gardens on Thursdays and he goes fishing on Fridays so there is food prepared for Saturday which is Sabbath. Sabbath is observed from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. During this time, Adventists avoid secular work and all business related activities.

How fierce looking is this carved warrior?

How fierce looking is this carved warrior?