Changing Planet

Sandroing, A Vanishing Art

This week Elizabeth Lindsey is aboard a Polynesian voyaging canoe “Hine Moana” bound for the Solomon Islands.  Weather permitting, the crew will leave Vanuatu’s Port Vila on the summer solstice stopping briefly on Meskelyne before landing at Honiara where more than 3,000 cultural practitioners from more than 27 countries will gather. Over the next few weeks Elizabeth will share stories of master navigators from the Pacific who live by the wisdom of ancient wayfinding.

By Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey, National Geographic Fellow

Matasangvul Hinge, Sandroing Master. Photo: Elizabeth Lindsey

The Vaka Moana, voyaging canoes, are revitalizing cultural kinship throughout the Pacific.  These deep-sea vessels serve as connective tissue between remote islands and the rest of the world.

As we journey, we witness pristine ecosystems threatened by encroaching development, cultural traditions buckling under the pressures of modernity.  Our goal in sharing these stories is to raise awareness of Oceania’s most vast and vulnerable treasures.

As I wait for the fleet of canoes to arrive in Port Vila, I learn of a sandroing master.

Sandroing is a unique, maze-like art form.  It’s created in a largely uninterrupted path on the sand or ground using one or two fingers.  Geometric patterns are formed while artists tell their stories.  Like language, these symbols and codes differ from clan to clan and island to island.  This type of art is mainly found in the northern region of Vanuatu.

Matasangvul Hinge was born into a chiefly line of sandroing masters on Raga Island, better known as Pentacost.

More from Elizabeth’s Expedition:

Lessons from Master Navigators Translated for a New Age

A Gathering of Wayfinders of the Pacific

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