Three stalls, three stories: Honiara Central Market


Harriet Suiga with her lavalavas

The Central Market is always a hive of activity with a range of goods unique to the Solomon Islands. But have you ever wondered how they were made? Or where they came from?

Well SIBC went to the market to find out:

Harriet Suiga, Green Valley, Central Guadalcanal

Selling: Lavalavas

In the furthermost part of the market from Iron Bottom Sound, the clothes sellers, jewellery and oil sellers set up shop. One such trader is Harriet Suiga.

She told SIBC the process behind creating the lavalava – a Solomon Islands trademark.

“I get the rolls (of material),” she said. “Each roll costs $175, and one roll will get about 8-10 lavalavas.

“Then we have the dye. That costs $55 per bottle. So in the morning I’ll cut the material up, and dye them. Depending on whether its sunny or not depends on how many I get. If it is sunny ‘ll get lots done in one day, but if it isn’t it takes longer.”

She sells the lavalavas for $35 each, with a Solomon Islands stencil, created by one of the stencil makers nearby, planted on them.

And who buys them?

“It’s a mix of people,” she said. “Lots of tourists, and people from other Pacific countries who want a lavalava with the Solomon Islands printed on it. Sometimes we’re really busy and sell lots, but sometimes it’s really quiet. It just depends.”

Sharon Teresa at her coconut stand

Sharon Teresa, Malaita 

Selling: coconuts

They are staples of the Solomon Islands; but what is the best kind of coconut to buy?

According to Sharon Teresa – and the ladies selling coconuts outside at the Central Market around her – the answer is: “all of them”.

“The most popular ones are the big ones, the white men like those ones,” she said. “But it just depends on what you like. The young ones are sweater and the older ones have more of a coconut taste.”

The group of coconut sellers buy them from farmers in the morning who come in from around the Guadalcanal area – both east and west – to the sell their produce. $150-$200 will get you “70 to 80 coconuts” depending on the size.

How many the women sell – usually for $5 each, with the small ones going for $3 – depends on the type of day it is.

“If it’s hot we sell lots and lots,” she said. “But if it’s rainy it can be very quiet.”

Tessa Tori with her shell money necklaces

Tessa Tori, Langa Langa Lagoon

Selling: shell money

It is no surprise Tess Tori is from Langa Langa Lagoon, the home of shell money. What is surprising is the mix of people that buy the culturally unique jewellery from her stand:

“It’s a mix of people,” she said. “We get locals buying for their wantok. Tourists come, and I even get tourists coming in and buying the bride price necklaces,” she said, in reference to the expansive decorations on her left, in the photo above, which take weeks to make.

The most popular were the smaller necklaces, but people loved looking at the big bride price necklaces, she said.

She normally spent six days a week at the stand, with busy periods generally coming on the weekends.

“But it can get busy at anytime.”




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