The Melanesians have Negroid features and wear their hair in great halo-like afros. Their color ranges from chocolate brown to deep blue-black. The inhabitants of the Western Solomon are the most heavily pigmented in the world.
Most Melanesians live on high, volcanic islands. Great differences exist between the bush people of the interiors and the saltwater people of the coasts. There is also a great variety among the tribes of the interior because of the terrain. Some tribes were matrilineal while others were patrilineal.
The Melanesians developed a variety of cultures, customs, and traditions. The art was just as varied because of the vast majority of micro-societies. Melanesian society was based on consensus, gift-giving, exchange, and obligation. Village headmen were elected by the people through either village councils or the people. There were no hereditary classes such as found in the Polynesians.
Unlike the casual Polynesian culture, religion was important in the Melanesian culture. Totem figures were important and common, especially among the Aboriginals. Ancestors were believed to remain in this world, and their advice and protection were often sought. The skull, considered the dwelling place of the soul, was often decorated and kept in men’s houses. Sometimes carvings were made to provide a home for the spirits of the ancestors, or they were represented by posts or images.
Cite for September Posts: Stanley, D., South Pacific Handbook.