Concept: Liu


Malaitans introduced the verb liu into Solomon Islands Pijin. It means to 'hang around' or stroll or loiter casually, and liu is also a noun labelling those who do this in towns. Young single men have always been the main performers of this social art, but today the practice can apply to families and to women as well, as they enjoy the freedom of wandering about Honiara's public places. Liu allows new contacts to be made and old relationships to be maintained. Ian Frazer says liliu la became a lifestyle for many To'aba'ita (north Malaitans) and the term masta liu remains well-known today, denoting one who has no work and depends on wantoks (q.v.) for sustenance. Honiara is still a small urban space and was even smaller in past decades. On the district stations in the 1950s the unemployed were give a free passage home by the District Commissioner, but this did not occur in Honiara, where by the 1960s there were 'District Houses' for lius (the plural form) next to the District Commissioner's offices. Lius have always made up a large portion of Honiara's population, most staying with their extended families in overcrowded housing. Frazer interprets liu as strategic behaviour, a way of learning, and a way to maintain social cohesion. He described comparative terms and behaviours from Guadalcanal, which would be similar in other areas of the country. This peripatetic but acceptable behaviour can extend over years and include movement between islands, all encompassed in an extension of local area activities rooted in culture. What foreigners often saw as rootless wandering and dependence on wantoks was part of the creation of a sustaining, modern national consciousness, a dynamic and creative process that blends with traditional cultural norms.

However, as urbanisation has progressed there is also a sense of desperation at the economic burden created by liu relatives who come to visit and overstay their welcome. Families want to continue to honour their social responsibilities but find it increasingly hard to cope with the burden of non-wage earning long-term visitors. (Frazer 1985, 185-205)

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Published resources

Journal Articles

  • Frazer, Ian L., 'Walkabout and Urban Movement: A Melanesian Case Study', Pacific Viewpoint, vol. 26, no. 1, 1985, pp. 185-205. Details