Our sea of islands


Pacific scholar Epeli Hau'ofa in his 1993 work 'Our Sea of Islands', wrote about the significance of the ocean to Pacific Islanders. 

'Oceania' connotes a sea of islands with their inhabitants. The world of our ancestors was a large sea full of places to explore, to make their homes in, to breed generations of seafarers like themselves. People raised in this environment were at home with the sea. They played in it as soon as they could walk steadily, they worked in it, they fought on it. They developed great skills for navigating their waters, and the spirit to traverse even the few large gaps that separated their island groups.

A new Oceania: Rediscovering our sea of islands, 1993,
eds. Eric Waddell, Vijay Naidu and Epeli Hau'ofa, Suva, p8.

Historically the Pacific Islands have been viewed as lacking in resources, dependent on other countries and restricted by the sea. Hau'ofa encourages people to change their perceptions by reintroducing the term 'Oceania' to scholarship, describing the resource-rich environment of the Pacific Islands where the ocean is a pathway rather than a barrier.

The images in this section show the importance of the ocean to Pacific Islanders and the wide variety of resources found within it.


One of the more unusual resources found and harvested in the Pacific Ocean are sea cucumbers (Beche-de-mer in French, trepang /tripang in Malay, namako in Japanese and balatan in Filipino. On display are some of Professor Gerard Ward's research materials on the beche-de-mer trade in the Pacific Islands. which was later published in Man in the Pacific Islands, ed. by R. Gerard Ward, 1972.