Biographical entry: Irofa'alu, Shem


Shem Irofa'alu first rose to prominence in the 1930s when he became the main religious leader and schoolteacher of the South Sea Evangelical Mission (SSEM) at Irombule in To'aba'ita, north Malaita, replacing Peter Abu'ofa (q.v.). He became a leader of the Maasina Rule (q.v.) movement (1946-1952), and in practice was probably more powerful than his nephew 'Atoomea (q.v.), the Maasina Rule Head Chief for To'aba'ita. Irofa'alu was jailed for his activities. In 1956-1957 Irofa'alu broke away from the SSEM and formed an independent church with around two thousand members, which he named Boboa. The Church lasted only two or three years, closing when Irofa'alu became a Jehovah's Witness (q.v.) and led his followers away. In 1963, he split from the SSEC again over issues relating to bridewealth that were not resolved until 1972. Then, in 1973, two groups split away again, joining the Assemblies of God and the California Baptists. (Maeliau 1976; Hogbin 1939b, 175; David Akin, personal communication, 29 Nov. 2009)

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Published resources


  • Hogbin, H. Ian, Experiments in Civilization: The Effects of European Culture on a Native Community of the Solomon Islands, George Routledge and Sons, London, 1939b. Details


  • Maeliau, Michael, The Remnant Church: A Separatist Church (Long Essay written at Christian Leaders Training College), Banz (Papua New Guinea), 1976. Details