Trobriand Islands - Marriage and Family

Marriage. Most marriages occur between young people living in different hamlets within the same or neighboring villages. By marrying a father's sister's daughter—usually three generations removed—a man marries someone from another matrilineage within his father's clan. Endogamous clan marriages sometimes occur but they are regarded as incestuous and are not discussed openly. Only when a young man may inherit the leadership of the matrilineage will he live avunculocally in his mother's brother's hamlet. Other married couples usually reside virilocally in the young man's father's hamlet. The major commitment that follows each marriage is the annual yam harvest produced by the woman's father and eventually by her brother in the woman's name. These yams obligate her husband to obtain many bundles of banana leaves for her when she participates in a mortuary distribution. Divorce has few obstacles and although the couple's kin may seek to prevent the dissolution of the marriage there is little they can do if either spouse is adamant about their separation. If a divorced man wants one of his children to remain with him, he must give his wife's kin valuables. Remarriage is usual for both spouses. There are a few permanent bachelors but women do not go through life unmarried.

Domestic Unit. Nuclear families live together in one household. Older people usually take one of their grandchildren to live with them.

Inheritance. A villager's personal property, including magic spells, are given to those who have helped him or her by making yam gardens and assisting with other food. This is the way sons inherit from their fathers. Matrilineal property, such as land and decorations, is given to a man's sister's son, while a woman may inherit banana trees, coconut or areca palms, magic spells, and banana-leaf wealth from her mother. Among kula men, shells and partners are inherited either by a son or a sister's son. When a man dies, his house and yam house are destroyed and his wife usually returns to her natal hamlet.

Socialization. Young children are cared for by both parents. Because marriages often take place among people living in the same village, grandparents also provide child care. A man's sister performs beauty magic for his children and acts as a confidant when they reach puberty and seek out sexual liaisons. Children who attend the Kiriwina high school board during the week, while others who go to high schools on the mainland only return for holidays.

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The article shows a true sneak preview of the Trobriand Islands. It is one of the strogest customs that almost never chnages even through the strong elements of modernisation and globalisation. Though many Trobriand Islanders have travelled the world, and are being thought by some of the well know lecturers and proffessors of the world, they still respect their culture and perform their duties in their societies. A son or daughter gone overseas or intermarry into another province in PNG is still a Trobriand Islander.

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