'Are'are people

'Are'are people

‘Are‘are is the name of a people from the south of the island of Malaita, which is part of the Solomon Islands. Their language is the 'Are'are language, which is part of the Austronesian language family. In 1999 there were an estimated 17,800 speakers,[1] up from about 8-9,000 in the 1970s.[2]

Prior to colonisation and subsequent independence, the 'Are'are occupied a much larger geographical area encompassing parts of Guadalcanal and Makira, as well as Malaita. This included the northern part of Makira known as Arosi and the eastern part of Guadalcanal known today as Marau Sound. In the past they lived in hamlets in the mountainous hinterland, or on the banks of lagoons in the southwest or the Mara Masika Strait (separating Malaita and South Malaita islands), but during colonization many coastal villages were established.

Traditionally, they practiced subsistence agriculture of taro, yams, and sweet potatoes, as well as raising pigs and fishing. During colonization they were encouraged to export copra and raise cattle on a small scale.[2]

The southern and northern zones differ in their political organization, with the south led by hereditary chieftains, while the north follows the self-made big man structure common in Melanesia. Both the hereditary and non-hereditary leaders are known as aaraha.[2]

The traditional religion was ancestor worship, but during colonization, Christianity made big inroads, and by the mid-1970s at least half of the population was converted.[3] Bible portions were first translated in 1957.[1] About half belong to the South Seas Evangelical Church, and half to either the Catholic Church or Anglican Church of the Province of Melanesia. The former do not permit traditional music which is seen as related to the ancestral spirits, deemed "devils."[3]

The 'Are'are known for their complex panpipe music, which was studied by ethnomusicologist Hugo Zemp.


  1. ^ a b 'Are'are language at Ethnologue
  2. ^ a b c Zemp, Hugo. Liner notes to Solomon Islands: 'Are'are Panpipe Ensembles. Le Chant du Monde LDX 274961.62, 1994. Page 58.
  3. ^ a b Zemp, 59

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