Posted: May 2nd, 2021

Buka culture, Oceania

Residents of Bukas are called Buka after the island and though no English definition of the word can be found it most likely originated from a Malaysian word. Foreigners refer to the people as Bukas but in the country they are know by their clans. It can be assumed that there are rude names that names used for respect within the different inhabitants but I have a feeling that to learn those one must actually visit the island. 2- The Buka reside on Buka Island, Bougainville Province, in Papua New Guinea.

Buka Island itself is separated from Bougainville by Buka Passage, a swift flowing sea channel. There are five small inhabited islands found off of the west coast. The east coast of the island has many cliffs as it is unprotected from the ocean wind. The west coast has the Richard Parkinson Range, with its highest peak, Mt. Bei which is 458 meters high. The entire island is surrounded by coral reef rings, with large lagoons on the west coast.

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3- There are two distinct languages spoken on Buka, though with dialects there are about 4 different languages, Hanahan Halia is spoken along the east coast, Haku is spoken in the north coast villages, Selau a dialect of Halia is spoken in the Bougainville peninsula, and Solos is spoken within the North Bougainvillean Austronesian families. Halia and Haku speakers can easily understand each other, with Selau being there most distant dialect. However Solos and Halia speakers do have difficulty understanding each other.
Tok Pisin is also used as a lingua franca between the three different dialects and this language is spoken throughout Papua New Guinea. All of these languages are part of the North Bougainvillean Austronesian languages which can be traced back to South China and Formosa. There is a clear division between the south and north of this island mainly dealing with those that immigrated to these areas. 4- Most settlements are villages and hamlets. The island itself is divided into five electorates, the pewit, Halia, Hagogohoe, Tsitalato and the Haku.
These areas are connected by narrow paths and through trade partners. These villages would move and change depending on the weather and with new alliances or reorganizations of clans. Some of the first towns grew around missions and near airstrips or by good harbours. This area did not have much European settlement until after WWII so there is still much of the traditional life present. The main town, also called the capital, is located on Buka Passage and on most maps is still labelled “Chinatown”. The family-household is still the basic social unit and can consist of many generations.
The most important buildings in the villages are the tsuhana. Funerals, reconciliations, memorials and feasts are all held at the tsuhana, and the building for the tsuhana is quite elaborate as a pig must be sacrificed for each step of the construction. Town are the center of commerce and then reach out to the nearest villages. There are not many roads and ships and air travel are needed to reach certain areas. Due to the geography much of the inner island is not populated. Currently at the capital there is more modern buildings arrived as the settlement has grown to incorporate businesses and some tourism.
This urban Mecca contains representatives for banks, the government and agricultural businesses as well as some resorts on the beach. 5 – Buka houses contain many generations, as many of three. One type of house built in this area is made of silt. Silt houses last between 20 and 30 years and are constructed above the ground to allow for the high tide. These houses are quite large and require about 20 men to set the posts (the foundation) of the house. There are also traditional houses made of wood, huts made of woven reeds and roofs that are thatched with hay. Almost all houses are built up on stilts.
If no paint is used then most house are a brown or beige colour, as paint is a big upkeep because it has to be reapplied so often due to the humidity. 6 – Bukas economics are mainly based off of agricultural, as the sweet potato is a main staple in the villages not only for food but also to trade. Copra and cocoa are cash crops and there is some small amount of money to be made in spices and vanilla. Other popular crops are breadfruit, yams, taro, rice, bananas, mango, coconuts and other fruits. Many animals have been domesticated for food and birds, marsupials, cassowaries and turtles are hunted for their meat.
Tea is drunk throughout the day. There is also a substantial amount of fishing done and collecting shellfish as most villages are very close to the coast. Many families keep chickens and pigs those pigs are considered to be very important and only used for rituals and formal occasions. A lot of time is spent collecting water as fresh water is in short supply. Tourism has slowly sprung up on the island allowing for some small change sin income though moist businesses found in the main city along the Burka Passage all deal with agriculture products.
Most villagers produce their own food and townspeople may have their own garden or they trade with village women who sell their produce at markets. Small trade stores supple kerosene lanterns, matches, blankets, clothing, soap, tinned fish, tea, sugar and rice while large urban supermarkets import expensive food items and other products. There is also some work in the gold mining and oil industry though most industry is horticultural. 7 – The political system in Buka is based off of chiefs though both men and women can be “chiefs”.
These chiefs then build alliances and trade routes with other chiefs and clans. Most authority positions are inherited and chieftainships, called tsuono, though many times this heredity is ignored. The tsunono represents the interests of their clan. Each tsuono will look over about 20 families though many tsunono clans can come together under the tsunono mal, of a superior clan. The most powerful of all the chiefs, the munihil, is put forth or “elected” by the tsunono, and has power over clans of a moiety class.
(Moiety classes are associated with prestige, with Nakaripa and Naboen being higher class and Nakas and Natasi of lower class. ) Moiety class is important for resolving conflicts and organizing authority. Women can also be chiefs but they are looked on as sacred objects held with great respect. Though ever since the Bougainville civil war women have become more prominent in leadership roles. Those that want to participate in higher politics within the Papua New Guinea government must be very wealthy and use the traditional campaigning methods; much of popular politics does not exist throughout Buka.
8 – Kinship terminology is Hawaiian and descent in is matrilineal. Most newlyweds tend to live with their maternal relatives at first but will move to the wife’s native land as children technically belong to the wife’s clan. So under this kinship all females in the parent’s generation are referred to as mothers and all males in the parental generation are fathers. All brothers and male cousins are referred to as brother and all sisters and female cousins are called sister. 9 – There are two types of marriage offered in Buka that are clearly described in the marriage act of 1963.
Customary marriage is where the individuals follow the customs of their tribes and you do not need any proof of marriage beyond those of the traditional custom, though the definition of a native of automatic citizen is not very clear. The extended family is very important to the formation of the marriage, husbands may have several wife’s and the husband or husbands family must pay the bride price. Once they are of age men and women spend time in supervised courtship sessions. Exogamy is a must and women marry outside of their clans most of the time.
Is a women is unhappy then she is able to leave her husband, get divorced and return back to her clan. A statutory marriage must be performed by a district officers, Registrars or ministers of Religion or anyone else that has authority from the government. Marriages must have seven day notice, and all participants must be over 21 years of age unless they have their parents consent. The ceremony must have two witnesses and you will receive a marriage certificate. 10 – Both men and women are involved with horticulture though there is still a clear division of labour as well as payment.
Men will clear the forest so that the women can plant gardens and keep the pigs. The crops and cash crops are planted and tended by men, banana, sugarcane, cocoa and coffee and though the women will help to pick these crops the majority of the money is given to the men. Women do all of the cooking though both the men and women will look after the children. In towns and large villages the women take car of the domestic chores and child care while the husbands are at work. If a woman has a job then one of her family will take care of the chores.
Women have begun to take part in men’s jobs though they deal with a lot of prejudice and harassment, while men that do traditional women’s work are stigmatized. Females are very important to building authority as the participate in female exchange event and redeem matrilineage lands. The men with the most power have achieved it only with the help of his female relatives. As times change women are slowly redefining their roles though there are not many job opportunities for them. 11 – Current religious beliefs are Christians divided between Roman Catholics and Methodists.
There has been a lot of assimilation of indigenous and Christian beliefs ad God is called Sunahan. Sunahan is a creator figure from Buka tradition. Traditionally Buka religion focused around keeping good relationships between the living and the spirits of the dead, including the spirits that inhabit all named geographical features such as pools of water and large rocks. Spirits can impart positive and negative attitudes and they are all powerful. Spirits are important for success in fighting, horticulture and all things sexual.
Bukas communicate with spirits using fire mainly to celebrate funerals. Sensory is also believed in and there are two kinds of sorcery, one that is used by the chief to punish transgressors and contemporary sorcery which is secret and is illegal, it was thought to have been brought in from outside of Buka. IN current society most people still have knowledge of sorcery and use spells to promote, healing, gardening, prevent minor illnesses and to bring about love. Most rituals focus on health and fertility and focus in maturation and future success of those participating.
Initiates will find their spirit guide that will help them in their life. Bukas use both traditional and western medicine to overcome illnesses. Western medicine is used to deal with symptoms while traditional methods are used to uncover the cultural cause of the illness. There is a hospital in the main city, though most villages will have a mid-wife or other lightly trained women to deal with medical issues. There is not many medical trained professionals available outside of the urban areas so traditional medicine is still prevalent throughout the island.
13 – Buka is actually the site of a large social movement called Hahalis Welfare Society. This is referred to as a cargo cult by the church and Australian government. This society was established as a result of new taxes. They were supported by cash crops and ‘baby gardens’ in which young women were encouraged to build the societies population. Over 400 Australian police were needed to restore order. Eventually the society became very prominent supported the Me’ekamui Onoring Pontoku (Fifty Toea Movement) which was a source of much conflict at the end of the 1980s.
This society was one of the first to display Bougainvillean nationalism and brought about many militant formations. 14 – Barnard, A. , (2006) Patterns of Masculine Protest among the Buka, Journal of Personality, 11 (4), 302-311 Haviland, W. , (2002) Cultural Anthropology, Wadsworth Publishing Resture, J. , (2008), Bougainville History, http://www. janesoceania. com/bougainville_history/index. htm, accessed November 29, 2008 Zimmer-Tamakoshi, L, (2007) Culture of Papua New Guinea, http://www. everyculture. com/No-Sa/Papua-New-Guinea. html, accessed November 29, 2008

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