Spear fight­ing FES­TI­VAL

mailife - - Region - By ALLEN WAITARA

Although a very tiny spot on the map of Solomon Is­lands, its name has a power gen­er­ated by the ex­cit­ing sto­ries of many of those peo­ple who have vis­ited the small but beau­ti­ful is­land Santa Catalina (also known as Ao­rigi) an Is­land at the eastern end of Makira prov­ince. The sto­ries spring not only from its white sandy beaches, sweet co­conuts, wel­com­ing peo­ple and the fresh is­land breeze but from the cul­ture of Wo­ga­sia that still lives to­day. Wo­ga­sia the lo­cal name for the is­land’s spear fight­ing cer­e­mony, an amaz­ing cul­tural fes­ti­val all peo­ple of Solomon Is­lands re­gard as an ex­tra-or­di­nary event. This fes­ti­val has made the name of the tiny is­land known through­out the Solomon Is­lands be­cause it al­ways goes live on Na­tional ra­dio, the Solomon Is­lands Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (SIBC). Hear­ing the sto­ries about this fes­ti­val or read­ing it on­line or on print will bring dis­be­lief but the truth is there and if you have a chance to go to the is­land at the time of the fes­ti­val, it will open your eyes to the re­al­ity. It is an an­nual event that usu­ally takes place at the end of May and early June. This is the time of har­vest and the favoured lu­nar phase. Sig­nif­i­cantly, it is a time when the two tribes of the is­land, the Atawa and Amea, and any other peo­ple on the Is­land tra­di­tion­ally solve their dif­fer­ences. On many is­lands in Solomon Is­lands, peo­ple set­tle is­sues amongst them­selves through com­pen­sa­tion and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, but some­times ill feel­ing will re­main for years. How­ever the cer­e­mony of spear fight­ing or Wo­ga­sia is said to be a way to com­pletely re­solve is­sues amongst of Santa Catalina. Mai Life was told that any­one who has is­sue with an­other per­son but has been un­able to re­solve it or if they still have ha­tred to­wards each other, the Wo­ga­sia cer­e­mony can bring them to peace through ac­tu­ally throw­ing spears at each other to show their anger. The spears are real, not fake, but the pro­tag­o­nists can pro­tect them­selves from get­ting hurt. They have shields and also, ac­cord­ing the tra­di­tion, they have some pro­tec­tion within the cer­e­mony it­self. It is said that if any­one throws a spear with dif­fer­ent mo­tive than the is­sue they have stated, the spear won’t hurt his op­po­nent be­cause will miss him. The rules say that a per­son has to fight with only the per­son he is in con­flict with, whether the op­po­nent is from an­other tribe or within the fam­ily. “The fight can be with a cousin from an­other tribe, or his brother, but not with his un­cle or his fa­ther,” our in­for­mant said. An­other rule is that any­one who hurt an­other per­son who is not his op­po­nent dur­ing the fight has to give com­pen­sa­tion. Tom Perry, who once par­tic­i­pated in the fes­ti­val, out­lined the events that start the cer­e­monies. He said it be­gan with cer­e­mo­nial wash­ing of the conch shell, ready for when the is­lan­ders would meet at mid­night to blow the shells and chant. Women also take part in the early hours of the second day, when they beat the ground with lit co­conut palm fronds to drive dis­eases and demons from the is­land. “The fronds crack loudly as they are smacked into the

ground, sparks fly, chil­dren scream and el­derly women stand in their door­ways throw­ing buck­ets of dirty water and fish guts at those run­ning past,” Perry said. On the af­ter­noon be­fore the day of the spear fight, the women head to the high­est point of the is­land, named Faraina, to cut ba­nana leaves and chant cheeky in­sults at the men. “All the men join the women on top of the hill, where they cover them­selves in aran­pagora, the is­land’s sa­cred or­ange mud, be­fore wrap­ping them­selves in ferns and march­ing back down. Men cer­e­mo­ni­ally yell out to the women be­low at each break in the trees, be­fore storm­ing through the vil­lage, stamp­ing their spears on the ground and sep­a­rat­ing into re­spec­tive sides for the spear fight,” Perry said. It is only on the spear fight­ing day the power of spears and the re­al­ity of the cul­tural fes­ti­val is fully demon­strated. The men will be lined up in their tribes on the beach, Perry said, and two strong war­riors from each tribe walk in the shal­low water, bang­ing their spears and shout­ing the name of their en­e­mies. Then the fight will be­gin. The fight­ing demon­strates the brav­ery of the men. “The sound of spears hit­ting shields fills the length of the beach. It’s a sur­real event to wit­ness close up. Some spears travel fright­en­ingly fast at their tar­gets, hit­ting legs and graz­ing arms, while oth­ers wob­ble through the air and fall far short,” he said. The spear fight con­tin­ues for about five min­utes, af­ter which the spears are to be thrown in the sea. The fight­ers who launched spears at each other walk to­gether un­der drokbona­paragu vine to demon­strate their new unity. Within liv­ing mem­ory, no death has been caused by the spear fight. How­ever in 1974, a per­son lost his eye when a spear pierced it. The spear fight­ing cer­e­mony ends with women cov­ered in mud and dressed in ba­nana leaves throw­ing stones at the men and then run­ning into the sea. The spear fight­ing is usu­ally the fi­nal event of three days cel­e­bra­tion and is in­tended to show that the is­land peo­ple are united and will live in peace.

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