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Kitava, The Trobriand Islands

Kitava is one of the Trobriand Islands, an archipelago of coral atolls situated in Milne Bay Province. Most of the 10,000 indigenous inhabitants live on the main island of Kiriwina, which is also the location of the government station.  Kitava is located 25km's from Kiriwina. Other major islands in the group are Kaileuna and Vakuta. The group is considered to be an important tropical rainforest ecoregion in need of conservation.


Kitava island and the other Trobriand islands are famous for their culture and huge yam gardens, which have cultural significance in tribal rituals. There is no electricity, no cars and no outboard motors on boats. The people are most subsistence horticulturalists. The social structure is based on matrilineal clans who control land and resources. People participate in the regional circuit of exchange called Kula, sailing to visit trade partners on canoes. In the late 20th century, anti-colonial and cultural autonomy movements gained followers from the Trobriand societies. When inter-group warfare was forbidden by colonial rulers, the islanders developed a unique, aggressive form of cricket.


Kitava,is keen to maintain its reputation as the “island of love”. We were welcomed ashore with garlands before watching the spectacular ‘singsing’ from nubile boys and girls that included displays of trusting pelvises and slapped thighs - Kitava’s traditional greeting, and the Tapioca and cricket dances. Many villagers had come to watch the singsing providing laughter and mockery from the non-dancers of their costumed friends.  We then walked to a nearby village to see their school and the Trobriand Yam houses.


We said our goodbyes and went across the lagoon formed by the tiny coral cay of Nuratu Island just off the main beach of Kitava for a beach BBQ, swimming, snorkelling and sea kayaking. Some of the locals joined us. It was interesting to see them experience their first burger and ice-cream.


Research Study - The inhabitants of Kitava and their diet and lifestyle have been the subject of special study by researcher Staffan Lindeberg and his colleagues due to their reported excellent health and traditional diet. Mr. Lindeberg et al. have published several important works in peer-reviewed journals outlining their discoveries.