On Saturday, March 13th Vonunu National Secondary School on South Vella La Vella, Western Province hosted its annual cultural night and as is common the crowd favorites are always the Choiseul cultural group.
Well known for going the extra mile to dress as traditionally as possible, female members of the Choiseul group are often seen going topless during their presentation, while the male participants dressed up with nothing but their traditional attire.
Having completed most of my education in my home province in the Western Solomon Islands, this practice is not new to me.
But now as an adult and seeing such traditional and cultural determination continue to persist over the years, I have come to have respect for Choiseulese students and staff who showcase their culture in this manner.
I spoke to a Choiseulese staff member at VNSS who has taken up a leadership role over his provincial students, I asked how their strong regard for culture and tradition has contributed to their school community.
Mr. Titus Tanuqu is a Form 6 Tutor from the village of Sirovanga who still recalls his time participating in such events back in school and is proud of the courage his students continue to display during these cultural shows.
“Every year leading up to the cultural night, a discussion is held on a number of matters and one of that is how to dress.
“When this is decided upon, preparations are set in motion, and included in the preparation is the process of compensation in some form or another allowing any relatives to accept the dress code, especially by the female members.
“As preparations are being carried out and the day of the performance draws close, a sense of excitement and eagerness is felt by our boys and girls, and we like to say it is the traditional spirit of dancing that has overcome us, beckoning us to perform.
“By the time we make our call of entrance onto the staging area, we are absorbed by our roles in the show.”
Year after year Choiseulese students perform in their traditional group and almost never have they opted to go halfway with their dress code.
Their determination to do so is worth commending as they continue to present traditional and cultural values of their own to the audience.
One can easily shy away from participating in such programs, but now and again they took up the unofficial responsibility of sharing an experience that potentially may not be around in the future.
Tanuqu went on to speak of how his experience had strengthened his bond with fellow students during his days, and say the same can be said about his students today.
“Through our insistence of displaying our tradition and culture the way it has always been done in past years, I see growing respect between members of our school’s Choiseul community.
“This is not to say that everyone must do as we have done but to understand and embrace the positivity brought through blending school and island culture together.
“For many students entering boarding school for the first time, a clash of culture can be overwhelming to a number of them, by which they are almost immediately required to choose which mannerism to keep and which one to relax in order to get along and make friends.
“However, the cultural show aims to let all students ask about each other’s culture and instead of forcing them to ignore their own it rather calls for them to cherish and respect that of others and reduce stereotypes,” he said.
The same value of culture in schools is being brought back to education facilities in Europe as they see its inclusion benefiting its students who are exposed to various cultural groups during their education leave the school ready and accepting to enter societies that never has only one cultural identity.
“We are proud to still have the opportunity to be a part of this tradition and encourage others to embrace as much of their own culture and traditions as possible.”
BY TERENCE ZIRU
Gizo News Bureau