Over January, I (and my supervisor Annie Ross and her husband) visited Marovo Lagoon, Solomon, Islands for field work contributing to my honours project for 2015. This project involved interviews with local woodcarvers to investigate modern changes to the carving tradition, particularly the influence of tourism. In the villages of Keto Keto, Tibara and Bili, 31 woodcarvers were interviewed; while in the villages of Chubikopi and Bareho, we adopted a focus-group format to better suit the larger numbers attending and the greater interest in the project by non-carvers (over 40 people attended the discussion for each of these villages).
Across the board, the primary purpose of woodcarving was to provide a cash income to carvers, often being the only income beyond subsistence. Everybody agreed that those carvings with a story and those that had a long tradition were of greater importance than modern carvings made purely for tourist consumption. Nevertheless there were mixed opinions about whether this importance was due to cultural or economic reasons (as it was often stated that tourists preferred carvings that had some kind of story behind them). Interestingly, the villages that were further removed from the main tourist traffic seemed more inclined to continue woodcarving primarily for the sake of maintaining the tradition of their ancestors, despite making very little financial profit from their profession.
While in the villages, we stayed in community-run rest houses (accommodation created in an attempt to attract more tourism to the area). While the accommodation was very basic, it allowed us to be in the centre of the village, and people often visited and discussed anything from the project, to political affairs in Solomon Islands, or just life in general. These visits helped to put everything into a perspective, hearing the thoughts and views of the local people.