Malaita - Settlements

Very sharp contrasts in ecological adaptation distinguish the "bush" peoples of the Malaita interior from those of the Lagoons of the northeast coast (Lau speakers, who also have a colony on Maramasike) and the lagoons of the central west coast (Langalanga speakers). The former, living on islets and on coral platforms dredged from the lagoon floor, specialize in fishing (in the lagoon and the open sea) and in bartering fish and other marine products for root vegetables and forest products offered by peoples of the adjacent mountains. The Langalanga speakers may earlier have had a similar adaptation, but in recent centuries their fishing has been complemented and overshadowed by the specialized production and export or barter of shell valuables. What follows deals primarily with the numerically preponderant "bush" peoples, but it also briefly examines the "saltwater" variants on common cultural themes (the contrast between tolo or "bush" and asi or "sea" is widely drawn in Malaita languages). In bush areas, settlements were scattered homesteads or tiny hamlets, clustered close enough for collective defense and frequently moved because of pollution violations or gardening cycles. Each settlement mapped out a cosmological pattern in which the men's house above and the menstrual hut below became symbolic mirror images, with domestic houses in between. During the colonial period, missions, labor recruiters, and the government encouraged movements to the coast; and these movements were accelerated by the postwar Maasina Rule anticolonial movement. Nowadays, the Malaita population is mainly concentrated along the coast in substantial villages, except in remaining pagan areas (notably the east Kwaio Interior) where old patterns still prevail; large Malaita populations have also resettled around Honiara, with pockets elsewhere in the Solomons.

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