Symbol of War: The Popo Bowl of Weather Coast

BY TAVAKE SIMON HANA’AROA

“IN the olden days, sacrifices were usually made before our ancestors went into a battle.

“Popo (an ancient bowl) was very instrumental in those times, our ancestors would laid the Popo on the taboo stones and placed a whole pig in it to make sacrifices to the gods to protect their warriors in the battle and as well as protecting their land from famines and droughts,” according to 68-year-old, Popo carver, Norman Lavea.

To preserve the indigenous artifact, Normal from Veramoho village, in the Weather Coast Region of South Guadalcanal still holds on to the skills and knowledge on how to craft the Guadalcanal traditional bowl.

He described the wooden bowl as unique and is of great significance to the people of Guadalcanal.

Known traditionally as “Popo” by the people of the Weather Coast and other parts of Guadalcanal, this oval-shaped wooden bowl had been used by the people of Veramoho for generations.

When asked whether this bowl can last long, the 68-year-old said a good tree can last for years, and as well if it is well cared for. “This particular bowl is a piece of art and is culturally meaningful for the people of South Guadalcanal. It has general purposes like that of the modern-day bowl, but slightly different, for its strong wooden texture can withstand the harsh beating when in the process of making ‘Lakengo’, their mouth-watering traditional pudding.”

Lakengo is a traditional dish by the people of South Guadalcanal and other parts of the province, made from either Cassava or other root crops such as Taro.

Cooked in a stone oven for hours, the cooked root crops were then placed in the Popo where it will be mashed them until it becomes soft as if it is being smashed in a blender. After that, pure, fresh coconut cream is added to the mashed taro and that’s when it becomes Lakengo.

In a previous visit by the Tourism Media Solomon Islands to the Weather Coast of Guadalcanal, we have the privilege to interview Norman Lavea about his knowledge in making the Popo.

Norman said the skills and the knowledge he had to create the wooden bowl was inherited from his late grandfather.

He said that during his early teens, he used to be a food and water carrier for his grandfather when going out to the bush for crafting wooden bowls.

“My skill and the knowledge I have in making these bowls is traced down from my forefathers.

“I was motivated by my grandpa’s advice from that time and up until now, I think I did better than him already”, Mr. Lavea said with a smile.

Mr. Lavea had just completed two bowls which he puts up for sale when we interviewed him. “Popo has a high value in demand in the community, and few others who are also into Popo making usually sell their finished products to earn some income.”

The making of popo bowl is one way of getting money in an isolated village like Veramoho, located inland of the weather coast, South Guadalcanal at the western bank of the majestic Tina River, where income-generating activities are scarce because of its remoteness.

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