The culture of Bougainville is an ancient one and is omnipresent in everything. The people are very connected to a spiritual earth that nurtures them.
Women hold special and spiritual significance here in Bougainville where lineage* is traced through the matrilineal clan system, where the clan is traced through the Chief Meri of the clan who is also the title-holder and custodian of the tribal land. (*Only in Buin is lineage and ownership through male descendants.)
Matrinlineal culture is similar to other places in Papua New Guinea, like the Trobriands, West New Britain and some parts of the East Sepik.
Popular festivals in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville include:
The Reed Festival
This bi-annual festival is a cultural event for the Bougainvillean people. It is a huge showcase of culture, beauty and diversity over several days through cultural dancing, songs, plays, drama and other traditional creative arts.
The Reed Festival is staged in Arawa and performers come from all over Bougainville.
The festival provides the opportunity for youmg Bougainvilleans to learn about their culture from the older generation.
One important part of the Reed Festival is the 'Cool Culture' component that incorporates cultural activities and displays by the local children.
The Mona Festival is held annualy in Buka town to celebrate the seafaring tradition of Bougainvilleans.
It is held in July of every year and attracts cultural performers from all over the province. This festival is sometimes referred to as the Canoe Festival because the name 'Mona' actually refers to a large sea going canoe which was used in traditional times for the purpose of trade or to conduct lightning raids on other communities and islands in the Solomon Sea.
The Mona is unlike the dug-out canoe, rather it is crafted out of hewn planks of hard lightwood, expertly held together with special vines. Traditionally the tools used were made out of stone. To make the Mona water-tight, sap is used from the seeds of a special tree.
Manee Resource Center
There is a cultural project located in the middle of the Kongara montain forests above Kieta and Arawa called the Manee Resource Center.
The center is built for the preservation of certain old traditional Bougainville knowledge of people in this area. It is entirely self-funded and operated locally.
Mona Festival in Bougainville. Credit: David Kirkland
List of Accommodation in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville
List of Tour Operators in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville