Langalanga lagoon’s boat building heritage endangered amid Government inaction to render support to the once thriving industry in this part of Solomon Islands.
For generations, the people of Langalanga lagoon have been renowned for their remarkable skills in crafting wooden boats. However, the once-thriving industry that sustained their livelihoods is now on the brink of extinction due to lack of support. Two to three decades ago, the expertly handcrafted wooden boats from this region were the lifeline of transportation, ferrying people and cargo between Honiara, Auki, and back. These wooden boats, sturdy and spacious, played a pivotal role in transporting essential commodities such as copra, timber, cocoa, and passengers and also provide employment for people in that region in Malaita province.
The Langalanga people’s boats were not just vessels; they were a testament to their craftsmanship and their deep connection to the sea. However, the tides turned against this traditional industry as it gradually lost its momentum. The absence of adequate support, both financially and infrastructurally, cast a shadow over the once-bustling boat building trade. Unfinished wooden boats now line the shores of the lagoon, a stark reminder of a skill that is fading away. These remnants of the past stand alongside dilapidated boats that once sailed proudly, each telling a story of an industry that has waned over time.
Jack Walebarae, a dedicated boat builder, expressed the sentiments of his community, “If we have the money, we will continue with our boat building activity.” His words reflect the passion and dedication that have sustained the industry through the years. The decline of the boat building industry has had broader implications for Langalanga’s economy and culture. Employment opportunities have dwindled, and the community’s identity is at stake as an integral part of their heritage faces extinction. Presently, only two locally-built shipping vessels soldier on, connecting the islands and preserving a glimpse of the past. These vessels continue to serve as a lifeline for the local population. The last hope now rests on the shoulders of the government. In the absence of meaningful support, the future of the boat building industry seems grim. The Langalanga people are looking to the government for recognition, funding, and infrastructural assistance that can breathe life back into their traditional craft. Reviving this industry would not only reinvigorate the livelihoods of the Langalanga people but also celebrate their cultural heritage and preserve a vital part of their history.