The region includes the four independent countries of Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea, as well as the French special collectivity of New Caledonia, and the Indonesian region of Western New Guinea. Most of the region is in the Southern Hemisphere, with a few small northwestern islands of Western New Guinea in the Northern Hemisphere.
The name Melanesia (in French Mélanésie) was first used by Jules Dumont d'Urville in 1832 to denote an ethnic and geographical grouping of islands whose inhabitants he thought were distinct from those of Micronesia and Polynesia.
The concept among Europeans of Melanesia as a distinct region evolved gradually over time as their expeditions mapped and explored the Pacific. Early European explorers noted the physical differences among groups of Pacific Islanders. In 1756 Charles de Brosses theorized that there was an "old black race" in the Pacific who were conquered or defeated by the peoples of what is now called Polynesia, whom he distinguished as having lighter skin.:189–190 In the first half of the nineteenth century Jean Baptiste Bory de Saint-Vincent and Jules Dumont d'Urville identified Melanesians as a distinct racial group. :165
Over time, however, Europeans increasingly viewed Melanesia as a distinct cultural, rather than racial, area. Scholars and other commentators disagreed on its boundaries, which were fluid. In the nineteenth century Robert Codrington, a British missionary, produced a series of monographs on "the Melanesians" based on his long-time residence in the region. In works including The Melanesian Languages (1885) and The Melanesians: Studies in Their Anthropology and Folk-lore (1891), Codrington defined Melanesia as including Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, and Fiji. He did not include the islands of New Guinea because only some of its people were Melanesians. Like Bory de Saint-Vincent, he excluded Australia from Melanesia.:528 It was in these works that Codrington introduced the cultural concept of mana to the West.
Uncertainty about the delineation and definition of the region continues. The scholarly consensus now includes New Guinea within Melanesia. Ann Chowning wrote in her 1977 textbook on Melanesia that there is
no general agreement even among anthropologists about the geographical boundaries of Melanesia. Many apply the term only to the smaller islands, excluding New Guinea; Fiji has frequently been treated as an anomalous border region or even assigned wholly to Polynesia; and the people of the Torres Straits Islands are often simply classified as Australian aborigines.:1
In 1998 Paul Sillitoe wrote of Melanesia: "it is not easy to define precisely, on geographical, cultural, biological, or any other grounds, where Melanesia ends and the neighbouring regions ... begins".:1 He ultimately concludes that the region is
a historical category which evolved in the nineteenth century from the discoveries made in the Pacific and has been legitimated by use and further research in the region. It covers populations that have a certain linguistic, biological and cultural affinity – a certain ill-defined sameness, which shades off at its margins into difference.:1
Both Sillitoe and Chowning include the island of New Guinea in the definition of Melanesia, and both exclude Australia.
Most of the peoples in Melanesia have established independent countries, are administered by France or have active independence movements (in the case of West Papua). Many have recently taken up the term 'Melanesia' as a source of identity and "empowerment". Stephanie Lawson writes that the term "moved from a term of denigration to one of affirmation, providing a positive basis for contemporary subregional identity as well as a formal organisation".:14 For instance, the author Bernard Narokobi wrote about the "Melanesian Way" as a distinct form of culture that could empower the people of this region. The concept is also used in geopolitics. For instance, the Melanesian Spearhead Group preferential trade agreement is a regional trade treaty among Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji.
The people of Melanesia have a distinctive ancestry. Along with the aboriginal inhabitants of Australia, the Southern Dispersal theory indicates they emigrated from Africa between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago and dispersed along the southern edge of Asia. The limit of this ancient migration was Sahul, the continent formed when Australia and New Guinea were united by a land bridge as a result of low sea levels. The first migration into Sahul came over 40,000 years ago. A further expansion into the eastern islands of Melanesia came much later, probably between 4000 B.C. and 3000 B.C.
Particularly along the north coast of New Guinea and in the islands north and east of New Guinea, the Austronesian people, who had migrated into the area somewhat more than 3,000 years ago, came into contact with these pre-existing populations of Papuan-speaking peoples. In the late 20th century, some scholars theorized a long period of interaction, which resulted in many complex changes in genetics, languages, and culture among the peoples. This Polynesian theory, however, is somewhat contradicted by the findings of a genetic study published by Temple University in 2008. It found that neither Polynesians nor Micronesians have much genetic relation to Melanesians. It appeared that, having developed their sailing outrigger canoes, the ancestors of the Polynesians migrated from East Asia, moved through the Melanesian area quickly on their way, and kept going to eastern areas, where they settled. They left little genetic evidence in Melanesia and "only intermixed to a very modest degree with the indigenous populations there". Nevertheless, the study still found a small Austronesian genetic signature (below 20%) in some of the Melanesian groups who speak Austronesian languages, and which was entirely absent in Papuan-speaking groups.
Most of the languages of Melanesia are members of the Austronesian or Papuan language families. By one count, there are 1,319 languages in Melanesia, scattered across a small amount of land. The proportion of 716 square kilometers per language is by far the most dense rate of languages in relation to land mass on Earth, almost three times as dense as in Nigeria, a country famous for its high number of languages in a compact area.
In addition to the many indigenous languages, pidgins and creole languages have developed, often from trade and cultural interaction centuries before European encounter. Most notable among these are Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu in Papua New Guinea. They are now both considered distinct creole languages. Use of Tok Pisin is growing. It is sometimes learned as a first language, above all by multi-cultural families. Other creoles include Solomon Islands Pijin, Bislama, Papuan Malay and other related languages.
A distinction is often made between the island of New Guinea and what is known as Island Melanesia, which consists of "the chain of archipelagos, islands, atolls, and reefs forming the outer bounds of the sheltered oval-shaped coral sea".:5 This includes the Louisiade archipelago (part of Papua New Guinea), the Bismarck Archipelago (part of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands), and the Santa Cruz Islands (part of the country called Solomon Islands). The country of Vanuatu is composed of the New Hebrides island chain (and in the past 'New Hebrides' has also been the name of the political unit located on the islands). New Caledonia is composed of one large island and several smaller chains, including the Loyalty Islands. The nation of Fiji is composed of two main islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, and smaller islands, including the Lau Islands.
The names of islands in Melanesia can be confusing: they have both indigenous and European names. National boundaries sometimes cut across archipelagos. The names of the political units in the region have changed over time, and sometimes have included geographical terms. For example, the island of Makira was once known as San Cristobal, the name given to it by Spanish explorers. It is in the country Solomon Islands, which is a nation-state and not a contiguous archipelago. The border of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands separates the island of Bougainville from nearby islands like Choiseul, although Bougainville is geographically part of the chain of islands that includes Choiseul and much of the Solomons.
In addition to the islands mentioned here, there are many smaller islands and atolls in Melanesia. These include:
The following countries are considered part of Melanesia:
Melanesia also includes:
Several Melanesian states are members of intergovernmental organizations. Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu are members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu are also members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
Melanesians were found to have a mysterious third archaic Homo species along with their Denisovan (3–4%) and Neanderthal (2%) ancestors in a genetic admixture with their otherwise modern Homo sapiens sapiens genomes. Their most common Y-chromosome haplogroup is M-P256.
The high occurrence of blond hair is due to a specific random mutation, so DNA and phenotype for blonds appeared at least twice in human history.
The Anglican Church of Melanesia (ACoM), also known as the Church of the Province of Melanesia and the Church of Melanesia (COM), is a church of the Anglican Communion and includes nine dioceses in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. The newly enthroned and installed primate and Archbishop of Melanesia is George Takeli. He succeeds the retired archbishop David Vunagi, who left office on 6 September 2015.Archbishop of Melanesia
The Archbishop of Melanesia is the spiritual head of the Church of the Province of Melanesia, which is a province of the Anglican Communion in the South Pacific region, covering the nations of Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. From 1861 until the inauguration of Church of the Province of Melanesia in 1975, the Bishop of Melanesia was the head of the Diocese of Melanesia.Calendar of saints (Church of the Province of Melanesia)
The calendar of saints and commemorations in the Church of the Province of Melanesia (the Anglican Church in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu) is a continually developing list. Both old and new, universal and local saints and worthies are celebrated.Cargo cult
A cargo cult is a belief system among members of a relatively undeveloped society in which adherents practice superstitious rituals hoping to bring modern goods supplied by a more technologically advanced society. These cults, millenarian in nature, were first described in Melanesia in the wake of contact with advanced Western cultures. The name derives from the belief which began among Melanesians in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that various ritualistic acts such as the building of an airplane runway will result in the appearance of material wealth, particularly highly desirable Western goods (i.e., "cargo"), via Western airplanes.Cargo cults often develop during a combination of crises. Under conditions of social stress, such a movement may form under the leadership of a charismatic figure. This leader may have a "vision" (or "myth-dream") of the future, often linked to an ancestral efficacy ("mana") thought to be recoverable by a return to traditional morality. This leader may characterize the present state as a dismantling of the old social order, meaning that social hierarchy and ego boundaries have been broken down.Contact with colonizing groups brought about a considerable transformation in the way indigenous peoples of Melanesia have thought about other societies. Early theories of cargo cults began from the assumption that practitioners simply failed to understand technology, colonization, or capitalist reform; in this model, cargo cults are a misunderstanding of the systems involved in resource distribution, and an attempt to acquire such goods in the wake of interrupted trade. However, many of these practitioners actually focus on the importance of sustaining and creating new social relationships, with material relations being secondary.Since the late twentieth century, alternative theories have arisen. For example, some scholars, such as Kaplan and Lindstrom, focus on Europeans' characterization of these movements as a fascination with manufactured goods and what such a focus says about Western commodity fetishism. Others point to the need to see each movement as reflecting a particularized historical context, even eschewing the term "cargo cult" for them unless there is an attempt to elicit an exchange relationship from Europeans.Community of the Sisters of Melanesia
The Community of the Sisters of Melanesia, more usually called The Sisters of Melanesia, is the third order for women to be established in the Church of Melanesia, which is the Anglican Church of Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
The first women's order was the defunct Sisters of the Holy Cross, whose members transferred to the Roman Catholic Church in 1950.
In the late 1960s, the then bishop of the Diocese of Melanesia hoped to establish a group of women Franciscans in Honiara. They could not come, but the Community of the Sisters of the Church came and prospered.
A little more than a decade later, one woman named Nesta Tiboe felt that there was room for a community of sisters working in the Solomon Islands which followed the ideals and structures of the Melanesian Brotherhood. This turned out to be the Sisters of Melanesia.
There are about 110 sisters and over 50 novices at Verana'aso, Maravovo, Western Guadalcanal. The Head Sister is Sister Catherine Rosa. Besides Verana'aso, they have households in Honiara, CDC, Auki and South Malaita.
The novices wear a blue dress and upon admittance into the Sisterhood change into a green dress with a white veil with a green trim. The sisters wear a heart-shaped medal around their necks.Fijians
Fijians (Fijian: iTaukei) are a nation and ethnic group native to Fiji, who speak Fijian and share a common history and culture.
Fijians, or iTaukei, are the major indigenous people of the Fiji Islands, and live in an area informally called Melanesia. Indigenous Fijians are believed to have arrived in Fiji from western Melanesia approximately 3,500 years ago, though the exact origins of the Fijian people are unknown. Later they would move onward to other surrounding islands, including Rotuma, as well as blending with other (Polynesian) settlers on Tonga and Samoa. They are indigenous to all parts of Fiji except the island of Rotuma. The original settlers are now called "Lapita people" after a distinctive pottery produced locally. Lapita pottery was found in the area from 800 BCE onward.
As of 2005, indigenous Fijians constituted slightly more than half of the total Fijian population. Indigenous Fijians are predominantly of Melanesian extraction, with some Polynesian admixture.
Australia has the largest Fijian expatriate population, according to the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, while Fijians were also the fifth largest Pacific ethnic group living in New Zealand; a decrease of 8 percent between 1996 and 2001. The estimated Pacific Islander population size is 231,800 in 2001 Fijians comprising about 7,000 of that. Outside Oceania, a substantial Fijian diaspora is found in other anglophone countries, namely Canada, United States and the United Kingdom.
The Bose Levu Vakaturaga (Great Council of Chiefs) once passed laws and regulations governing the indigenous Fijian people. Until its disbanding by the Military of Fiji following the 2006 coup, the Great Council of Chiefs met yearly to discuss native Fijian concerns. The council, which was formerly responsible for appointing Fiji's president, was composed of 55 Fijian chiefs selected from the 14 provinces. Included in the council were three appointees from the island of Rotuma and six appointed by the Minister of Fijian Affairs. The Minister of Fijian Affairs consulted with the President as part of the selection process. Former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka was given a lifetime appointment on the council.Free Papua Movement
The Free Papua Movement (Indonesian: Organisasi Papua Merdeka – OPM) is an umbrella term for the independence movement established during 1965 in the West Papuan or West New Guinea territory which is currently being administrated by Indonesia as the provinces of Papua and West Papua, also formerly known as Papua, Irian Jaya and West Irian.The movement consists of three elements: a disparate group of armed units each with
limited territorial control with no single commander; several groups in the territory that conduct demonstrations and protests; and a small group of leaders based abroad that raise awareness of issues in the territory whilst striving for international support for independence.Since its inception the OPM has attempted diplomatic dialogue, conducted Morning Star flag-raising ceremonies, and undertaken militant actions as part of the Papua conflict. Supporters routinely display the Morning Star flag and other symbols of Papuan unity, such as the national anthem "Hai Tanahku Papua" and a national coat of arms, which had been adopted in the period 1961 until Indonesian administration began in May 1963 under the New York Agreement. The militant movement is considered as a separatist in Indonesia, and agitating for independence for the provinces has incurred charges of treason.Indigenous people of New Guinea
The indigenous peoples of New Guinea, commonly called Papuans, are Melanesians. There is genetic evidence for two major historical lineages in New Guinea and neighboring islands:
a first wave from the Malay archipelago perhaps 50,000 years ago when New Guinea and Australia were a single landmass called Sahul,
and much later a wave of Austronesian people from the north who introduced Austronesian languages and pigs about 3,500 years ago, and who left a small but significant genetic trace in many coastal Papuan peoples (though only a minority of Austronesian-speaking Papuans have detectable Austronesian ancestry).Linguistically, Papuans speak languages from the many families of non-Austronesian languages which are found only on New Guinea and neighboring islands, as well as Austronesian languages along parts of the coast and recently developed creoles such as Tok Pisin and Papuan Malay.
The people of New Guinea also include more recent immigrants, especially on the Indonesian side of the island, where recent migrants comprise up to half of the population.
The term "Papuan" is used in a wider sense in linguistics and anthropology. In linguistics, "Papuan languages" is a cover term for the diverse mutually unrelated non-Austronesian language families spoken in Melanesia, the Torres Strait Islands and parts of Wallacea. In anthropology, "Papuan" is often used to denote the highly diverse populations of Melanesia and Wallacea prior to the advent of Austronesian-speakers, and the dominant genetic traces of these populations in the current ethnic groups of these areas.List of islands in the Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Islands are the islands of the Pacific Ocean. Three major groups of islands in the Pacific Ocean are Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia. Depending on the context, Pacific Islands may refer to countries and islands with common Austronesian origins, islands once or currently colonized or Oceania. The indigenous inhabitants of the Pacific Islands are referred to as Pacific Islanders. This is a list of many of the major Pacific islands, organized by archipelago or political unit. In order to keep this list of moderate size, links are given to more complete lists for countries with large numbers of small or uninhabited islands.Lists of mammals by region
The following are the regional mammal lists by continent. Some are full species lists, others, particularly continental lists, have just the families.Melanesia Cup
The Melanesia Cup was an association football championship played between the Melanesian countries, it was used (along with the Polynesia Cup) for qualification to the Oceania Nations Cup. The last edition of the cup was in 2000. The tournament used a round-robin format involving every team playing each other once at the tournaments location.
In 2008, the Wantok Cup was established as a competition between Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. It was described by the Oceania Football Confederation as "a tournament reminiscent of the now defunct Melanesian Cup".Melanesians
Melanesians are the predominant inhabitants of Melanesia, in a wide area from New Guinea to as far east as the islands of Vanuatu and Fiji. Most speak either one of the many languages of the Austronesian language family, especially ones in the Oceanic branch, or from one of the many unrelated families of Papuan languages. Other languages are the several creoles of the region, such as Tok Pisin, Hiri Motu, Solomon Islands Pijin, Bislama, and Papuan Malay.A 2011 survey found that 92.1% of Melanesians are Christians.Music of Melanesia
Melanesian music refers to the various musical traditions found across the vast region of Melanesia.
Vocal music is very common across Melanesia; sitting dances are also attested. Hand gestures are an important part of many songs, and most traditional music is dance music.
Folk instruments include various kinds of drums and slit-log gongs, flutes, panpipes, stamping tubes, rattles, among others. Occasionally, European guitars and ukuleles are also used.Oceanian art
Oceanic art or Oceanian art comprises the creative works made by the native people of the Pacific Islands and Australia, including areas as far apart as Hawaii and Easter Island. Specifically it comprises the works of the two groups of people who settled the area, though during two different periods. They would in time however, come to interact and together reach even more remote islands. The area is often broken down into four separate regions: Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia and Australia. Australia, along with interior Melanesia (Papua), are populated by descendants of the first waves of human migrations into the region by Australo-Melanesians. Micronesia, Island Melanesia, and Polynesia, on the other hand, are descendants of later Austronesian voyagers who intermixed with native Australo-Melanesians; mostly via the Neolithic Lapita culture. All of the regions in later times would be greatly affected by western influence and colonization. In more recent times, the people of Occeania have found a greater appreciation of their region's artistic heritage.
The artistic creations of these people varies greatly throughout the cultures and regions. The subject matter typically carries themes of fertility or the supernatural. Art such as masks were used in religious ceremonies or social rituals. Petroglyphs, Tattooing, painting, wood carving, stone carving and textile work are other common art forms. Contemporary Pacific art is alive and well, encompassing traditional styles, symbols, and materials, but now imagined in a diversity of contemporary forms, revealing the complexity of geographic, cultural and individual interaction and history.Pacific Islander
Pacific Islanders or Pasifikas, are the peoples of the Pacific Islands. It is a geographic and ethnic/racial term to describe the inhabitants of any of the three major sub-regions of Oceania: Micronesia, Melanesia and Polynesia. These people speak various Austronesian languages.It is not used to describe non-native inhabitants of the Pacific islands (i.e. Indians and Europeans living in the Pacific are not ethnically Pacific Islanders). New Zealand has the largest concentration of Pacific Islanders in the world. However, the majority of its people are not identified as Pacific Islanders—instead during the 20th century and into the 21st century the country saw a steady stream of immigration from Polynesian countries such as Samoa, Tonga, the Cook Islands, Niue and French Polynesia.Papua New Guinea honours system
The Papua New Guinea honours system is the main system of honouring citizens of Papua New Guinea for their services to the country; it consists of three Orders and several medals. After independence, Papua New Guinea used the Imperial honours system, however, in recognition of the nation's 30th anniversary, a new awards system was adopted. The official announcement of its creation was made by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare on 12 November 2004 and the first investitures were performed by the Princess Royal in early October 2005. The old honours system is still in use as well, however, and the Queen issues a Papua New Guinean List as part of every Birthday and New Year Honours List.Papuasia
Papuasia is a Level 2 botanical region defined in the World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions (WGSRPD). It lies in the Southwest Pacific Ocean, in the Melanesia ecoregion of Oceania and Tropical Asia.
It comprises the following political entities:
Aru Islands and West Papua in eastern Indonesia
Papua New Guinea
Solomon Islands (excluding the Santa Cruz Islands)Solomon Islands (archipelago)
The Solomon Islands are an archipelago in the western South Pacific Ocean, located northeast of Australia. They are in the Melanesia subregion and bioregion of Oceania. The archipelago forms much of the territory of Solomon Islands, while the northwestern islands are within the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, in eastern Papua New Guinea. It forms the eastern boundary of the Solomon Sea.Western Islands, Papua New Guinea
The Western Islands are a group of islands in the Bismarck Archipelago, and within Manus Province of the Islands Region, in northern Papua New Guinea.
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List of resources about traditional arts and culture of Oceania