Carved statues & spiritual objects from the Trobriand Islands, Melanesia, are usually extremely and delicately hand carved, often with curiously convoluted figures, intricately carved, and particularly well finished, using kwila, rosewood or ebony found both in the Trobriands and Woodlark islands. Many also have inserts of mother of pearl. This art is extremely decorative.

The Polish anthropologist Malinowski made the Trobriands famous after the WWI. At the start of the war, apparently, he was offered a choice of internment in Australia or banishment to the remote Trobriands. Sensibly he chose the latter and his studies of the islanders, their intricate trading rituals, their yam festivals and cults and their sexual practices, led to his classic series of books -Argonauts of the Western Pacific, Coral Gardens and Their Magic and The Sexual Life of Savages.


The Trobriand Islanders have strong Polynesian characteristics and have a social system that is dominated by the hereditary chieftains who continue to wield a tremendous amount of power and influence. The whole society is hierarchical, with strict distinctions between hereditary classes. It is a matrilineal society whereby inheritance is passed through the female side of a family. The Chief's sons belong to his wife (or wives) clan or clans and he is superseded by one of his eldest sister's sons. On economic grounds, polygamy is still practiced by the chiefs.

The soils of the Trobriands are very fertile and great care is lavished on the gardens, especially the yam gardens that have great practical and cultural importance.