Trobriand Islands - Settlements

Trobrianders live in named hamlets associated with specific garden, bush, and beach lands. Usually, from four to six hamlets are grouped together to form a discrete village with populations ranging from 200 to 500. Yam houses stand prominently around a central clearing, dwarfing the individual dwellings built behind this plaza. Chiefs may decorate their houses and their yam houses with ancestral designs and hang cowrie shells indicating differences in ranking. If a chief is polygynous, each wife will have her own separate house. In all other cases, husbands and wives live together with their young children while adolescent boys, and sometimes girls, have their own small sleeping houses close by their parents' living quarters. These are the houses widows and widowers retire to when they are too old to remarry. Hamlets look much as they did in Bronislaw Malinowski's photographs. Roofs are still thatched (although some metal roofs are in evidence) and the walls are made from plaited coconut-palm fronds. The interior of the house is private, with a fireplace and sleeping areas, while most social life takes place on the verandas. Burial plots are at the edge of the hamlet. From there footpaths provide quick communication between villages. On Kiriwina, only one vehicular road (with several spurs) bisects the island.

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