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Solomon Islands: The Story of Lata

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The Story of Lata explores the efforts by the people of a remote part of Solomon Islands to preserve their traditional boat building culture and navigation. It explores traditional polynesian navigation in a region where the technology and knowledge is still intact. We listen to the older women who remember the old days of sailing, and who consider their role were this tradition to be revived. And we also consider the reality of modern life, which they are slowly being required to adapt to. How feasible is it to revive these ancient arts, which take time to learn? arrow Click here to view map of Solomon Islands

Behind the whole story is the myth of Lata, which guides us into a profound understanding of the limitlessness of time and space so necessary to the navigators behind the polynesian navigation, and consider that our modern world could do well to be informed by the patience and durability which it required.


Lata Canoe Photo
photo credit Jacob Penchansky

Joanne Sale
Traditional navigator
Nifliloli Island, Solomon Islands

For more information about Vaka Taumako and their crucial work to support traditional cultures in the Solomon Islands visit  their site: http://www.vaka.org.


"Producer Stephanie Guyer-Stevens has sailed halfway around the world to bring us a beautifully produced story just in time for Asian Pacific Heritage Month. "The Story of Lata" explores the cultural traditions and contemporary challenges of Solomon Islanders in a remote corner of the South Pacific. Here, the tides of modern life have steadily eroded away knowledge of the ancient arts of sailing and navigation that once defined this culture. And it's Polynesian women who remember the old ways.

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arrow Billboard 1:00

arrow Segment A 13:00

arrow Break 1 1:00

arrow Segment B 19:00

arrow Break 2 1:00

arrow Segment C 18:00

arrow Transcript arrow


Learning again, from the story of their cultural hero, Lata, to build te puke (canoes). Guyer-Stevens weaves a wonderful watery tale with just the right amount of culture, a taste of technology, and good old storytelling: perfect summer listening.

Island photo"The Story of Lata" is the next in the Outer Voices series, featuring little known stories and seldom heard voices of Asian Pacific Island women. It's a gem of a sound-rich story about intriguing, out of the way places that your listeners haven't heard about. But, if you still need a hook, consider this: May 16 was the first International Day for Sharing Life Stories. Organizers say that sharing our life stories with each other is a critical process in democratizing culture and promoting social change. Do your listeners a favor, and share this documentary of a place on earth that many of us will never see, but whose lessons about the value of returning to Earth-based, cultural traditions are relevant for sustaining communities everywhere."

Catherine Stifter, Posted on May 21, 2008

Background Information

What is the Vaka Taumako Project?
On the tiny island of Taumako in the Solomon Islands' remote eastern province of Temotu live about 500 Polynesians who may be the only ones who still know how to build and sail traditional voyaging canoes in the way their ancestors did. Even their fellow Solomon islanders regard nga Taumako (the Taumako people) as exotic and mysterious; to outsiders they are all but unknown. Dwelling outside the so-called Polynesian Triangle, a construct of the 19th-century French explorer Dumont D'Urville which in no way comprehends the realities of Pacific settlement, they have received little attention in high-profile modern studies of ancient voyagers. arrow Read full article

The Wind Compass: Nohoanga Te Matangi 
Images of Nohoanga Te Matangi "wind compass" of Taumako, separated into seven parts for clarity. We consider these three images to be a "work in progress" draft and not a final presentation. Illustrations drawn by M. George with permission of Ariki Kaveia.
arrow Read full article

Vaka Taumako: The Art and Craft of a Voyaging Canoe
On the tiny island of Taumako (fig. 1) in the Solomon Islands' eastern province of Temotu live some 500 Polynesians who may be the only people in the Pacific still capable of building and sailing traditional voyaging canoes in completely traditional ways. Dwelling outside the so-called Polynesian Triangle and off major shipping lanes, they have few of the conveniences or distractions of twentieth century life. Taumako has no roads, banks, motorized vehicles, shops, television, electric lights, or telephones. Communications from the world outside come over the island's marine radio or by way of an occasional boat. The nearest inhabited islands are 100 nautical miles across a frequently rough and treacherous seaway. arrow Read full article

Solomon Islands: Women Confronting Violence
“Kidnapping, murder, rape and torture have gone unchecked. Police are 
unable or unwilling to investigate many of these crimes. There are too many 
examples of criminals evading arrest, charges or detention, protected by 
corrupt politicians, officials, police or prison guards.” arrow Read full article

Solomon Islands: Historical Background
Despite no repetition of recent civil disturbances, or of violent home invasions targeting expatriates that occurred in Honiara in early October 2006, the security situation in and around the capital remains uncertain and could deteriorate rapidly. Ongoing political tensions remain high. arrow Read full article

Solomons force fit to keep the peace?
A parliamentary panel in the Solomon Islands, in the South Pacific, is debating the future of an Australian-led peacekeeping force. The UN has praised it as a model of regional intervention - but is its work now done? arrow Read full article

Country profile: Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands, a former British protectorate in the Pacific, is striving to recover from a civil conflict that brought it to the brink of collapse. arrow Read full article

Additional Reading

Lata Canoe PhotoBUCK, Peter, Vikings of the Sunrise, Whitcomb and Tombs Ltd. Christchurch, 1938

DAVENPORT, William, Social Organization notes on the Northern Santa Cruz Islands the Duff Islands (Taumako) p. 137, Sonderdruck aus Baessler-Archiv, Beitraege zur Voelkerkunde, Band XVI, 1968

FEINBERG, Richard, Polynesian Seafaring and Navigation, Kent State U. Press, Kent OH 1998

HADDON, A.C. & J. HORNELL, Canoes of Oceania, Bishop Museum
Press, Honolulu, 1936-1936

IRWIN, Geoffrey, The Prehistoric Exploration and Colonisation of the Pacific, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 1992

KIRCH, Patrick V. On the Road of the Winds, University of California Press Ltd. London 2000

LEWIS, David, We, the Navigators, Second edition, University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu, 1994

MARCHAJ, C.A. Sail Performance, Theory and Practice, London: Adelard Coles, 1996 pp. 158-176 (Contains details of Marchaj's wind-tunnel tests on sails resembling the Taumako type)

PUKU'I, Mary Kawena, Tales of the Menehune, Kamehameha Schools Press, Honolulu, 1985 (contains Hawaiian version of Lata story, p. 3)

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arrow Wisconsin Public Radio's Here on Earth

arrow Nature Conservancy Podcast

arrow National Film Board of Canada/Citizenshift


Underwriting for The Story of Lata from The Ford Foundation, Air Pacific, Kimo Campbell, and Terry Causey. Air Travel Los Angeles to Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands provided by Air Pacific, Fiji's International Airline. Visit www.airpacificusa.com.


» Hawaii: The Hula Lesson

» Cambodia: Girls from Cambodia

» Solomon Islands: The Story of Lata

» Burma: Kawthoolei

» Vietnam & Laos: The Price of Rice

» Project Incubator: New Stories

"Guyer-Stevens weaves a wonderful watery tale with just the right amount of culture, a taste of technology, and good old storytelling… It's a gem of a sound-rich story."
- Catherine Sifter, PRX Review 8140
» Read entire review

Related Links

» Gender Relations Center, Australia University
» Solomon Islands Broadcasting
» Polynesian Voyaging Society website
» Modern Proa designers
» Vaka Taumako on Archeology Channel




© 2009 Outer Voices