'Na Vanuagu': Epistemology and Personhood in Tathimboko, Guadalcanal

In The Relational Self: Decolonising Personhood in the Pacific. Suva, Fiji: The University of the South Pacific Press & Pacific Theological College. pp. 177-201 (2017)

This article provides a brief overview of the fundamental underpinnings of concepts such as identity, personhood and epistemology in the northern part of Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. The study area is commonly referred to as Tathimboko defined by the speakers of the Lengo language and adjacent locales that speak the Lengo and another language. Na vanuagu, roughly translates in English to ‘my home/place’ is weightier than the contemporary meaning of an individual’s home or place. Indeed, it is the foundation of personhood, identity, knowledge and relationship with one’s surroundings. It is also the expression of relationships between individual persons, families, kin groups, clans, tribes, and neighbouring communities and islands. Na vanuagu is a reality that determines whether an individual is a close relative, a distant relative, an associate, an adopted person, a co-opted person, an outsider, a foreigner, a host or a guest. It is the basis of knowledge in Tathimboko. It defines and delineates aspects of personhood and includes notions of rights, privileges, duties, responsibilities and social status in both private and public domains. Personhood in Tathimboko is primarily understood in a communal context, although there is also an individual aspect to it. It is usually acquainted to social relations, communal living, family, kinship ties, practices, rights and privileges. Since this paper concentrates on a region of Guadalcanal, a number of concepts in the local vernacular with their ‘equivalent or approximate’ English translations are singled out and discussed. This article’s contribution is simply to provide an overview of what constitutes knowledge in Tathimboko and how this may situate an understanding of personhood in this particular society’s worldview.
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