Bougainville, the largest island in the Solomon Islands chain, was named after French explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville. The island was taken over by the German administration in 1885 and became part of German New Guinea.
For centuries, fertile volcanic soils have supported thriving plantations of copra and cocoa on the island. Bougainville is also minerally rich with large deposits of gold and copper that in the late 1960s led to the creation of a large mine known as Panguna. Tensions between landowners and the mine’s owners Bougainville Copper Limited over royalties and environmental concerns erupted in the late 1980s into a decade-long war and blockade that claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Today, visitors to the island remark on the natural beauty of its shallow reefs and white-sand beaches, its powerful river systems and towering mountains looking out over islands and natural harbours. Culture continues to play a key part in everyday life in Bougainville in the form of traditional rituals surrounding birth, death, marriage, reconciliation and initiation. A range of cultural events still take place on the island and are a great way to experience this region’s unique traditions.