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Langa Langa Lagoon or Akwalaafu is a natural lagoon on the West coast of Malaita near the provincial capital Auki within the Solomon Islands. The lagoon is 21 km in length and just under 1 km wide. The "lagoon people" or "salt water people" live on small artificial islands built up on sand bars over time where they were forced to flee from the headhunters of mainland Malaita.
Traditionally, there had been substantive trade between the Langalanga people and people from Buin (Bougainville) in shell money until the emergence of the Bougainville crisis. Most of the private ship owners from the constituency generated capital through shell money trade to build their ships. They took shell money to Buin and traded it for cash and used the cash to build wooden boats.
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American author Jack London traveled to Langa Langa in a yacht in 1908.
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Priests in Laulasi live in "spirit houses," and when they die, their bodies are taken to the nearby village of Alite to decompose, after which the skulls are brought back and placed in a "house of skulls."
At present, unfortunately, the industry is slowly declining due to input scarcity. The major supplier of raw material South Malaita is not willing to supply any more shells. The only supplier which still sell raw materials to Langalanga people is Western Province although not reliable and in very small quantity.
"Three fruitless days were spent at Su'u. The Minota got no recruits from the bush and the bushmen got no heads from the Minota. We towed out with a whaleboat and ran along the coast to Langa Langa, a large village of salt-water people built with labour on a sand bank – literally built up"
Girls on the other hand, they stay with their mother and taught household cores such as cooking, weeding around the house, cleaning and looking after their younger brothers of sisters. One of the important things that girls learn at an early age too is how to make shell money.
The history of shell-money making in the Langa Langa lagoon is patchy. Stories retold from myths said that the first person to introduce shell money to the Langalanga lagoon was a woman from Buin in Bougainville. She was banished and floated in a coconut shell from Buin to Guadalcanal and finally to Malaita and landed at Tafilo, a village at Lalana near Laulasi.
Historically, chiefs in the Langalanga lagoon are looked upon as very important in uniting communities. Normally, chiefs are chosen from chiefly tribes or clan. Villages in the past used to have threes chiefs, Fa'atabu who makes offering and communicated with the spirits and ancestors, the Ramo is responsible for tribal warfare and Waenotolo is the chief responsible for controlling, organising, leadership and uniting the whole community.
Until recently, it has been a driving business which can be conservatively valued at $50,000.00 to $100,000.00 per annum. Shell money products include bracelets, necklaces, Tafuliae, Ha'a (smaller beads shell money used in some parts of the country), ear rings, finger ring, 'head bands' etc.
The people populating the Solomon Islands have a wide variety of faces, which makes seeing and meeting them so interesting: different people inhabit the different islands and have developed a populace all its own.
The island of Laulasi was the subject of the worst civilian casualties in the Solomon Islands during a bombing raid by American bombers during World War II.
The Annual Report on the British Solomon Islands dated 1953 states
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On the side of the island is an inlet where custom priests calls the sharks to come to the surface. The sharks are re-incarnation of the people's ancestors who died many years before. They also offer sacrifices to the sharks in the form of pigs. Ordinary men are not allowed to visit the shark site unless invited by the custom priest.[not in citation given]
"He (Mackenzie) believed in kindness. He also contended that better confidence was established by carrying no weapons. On his second trip to Malaita, recruiting,he ran into Bina, which is near Langa Langa. The rifles with which the boat's-crew should have been armed, were locked up in his cabin. When the whale-boat went ashore after recruits, he paraded around the deck without even a revolver on him. He was tomahawked. His head remains in Malaita. It was suicide.
According to local legend, a fisherman whose boat capsizes at sea may call on a shark to rescue him; after being rescued and returned to shore, he must sacrifice a pig, or else the shark will eat him next time he goes out to sea.
Langa in Solomons Pijin language means "along" or long.[further explanation needed]
By the 1960s many of the LangaLanga villages were Christian. Many of the communities previously sited on the artificial islands had been shifted to the mainland, with encouragement from the missionaries anxious to promote a clean break with the pagan past, and inducement in the form of greater access to land for subsistence farming.
Four different types of shell are used in making shell money, A red lipped rock oyster known as "romu" (Chama pacifica in the family Chamidae), white shell known as "ke'e" (Beguina semiorbiculata in the Carditidae), black horse mussel shells called "kurila" (Atrina vexillum in the Pinnidae) and thick white disks from a rigid cockle known as "kakadu" or"kakandu" (Anadara granosa in the Arcidae)
As the production rate increased, shell resources were depleted, particularly in Langalanga lagoon. Even in the 1970s some types of shell were rare. The limited land available for agriculture, has the consequence that the production of shell money is a continuing source of income. The creation of shell money is also an important cultural symbol to the people of the Langalanga lagoon.
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"..a flourishing boat building industry has been established and cutters are being built for the inter-island trade. A boatbuilding school has been established.
The islands in the lagoon are renowned for their shell money minting process, their "shark worship" beliefs, their shipbuilding skills and tourism. The most popular and well known of this islands is Laulasi which has had a thriving tourism industry dating back to the early 1970s; although tourism is largely underdeveloped. The Langa Langa Lagoon provides opportunities for snorkeling, and the villagers provide shell making demonstrations.