Biographical entry: Kuper, Heinrich (1888 - 1958)

Planter and Trader


Heinrich (Henry) Kuper was born in Germany in 1888. An officer from the German navy, he arrived in the Solomons in 1912 with no funds and after several low-level jobs went into partnership to develop a small plantation and trade store on Santa Ana. Kuper maintained his German citizenship. He married Augusta Kuper Kafagamurironga (q.v.) and the couple had three sons and a daughter. Between the wars, Kuper managed to buy out his partner and purchased another trading station in the area. The Kupers lived very poorly but managed to get their children educated in Melanesian Mission (q.v.) schools. All of the boys completed secondary school and the eldest, Geoff, went to the Central Medical School in Fiji and was trained as a Native Medical Practitioner.

Kuper was allowed to remain in the Solomons during the Second World War, assisting Allied forces but, in his usual fashion, he remained fairly aloof from outside contact. His eldest son, Geoff became a coastwatcher (q.v.), and his second eldest son, Charlie, served with the American forces. All three brothers prospered in the final stages of the war until the Americans withdrew, and they accumulated enough money to pay off all family debts. Geoff left medical practice to go into business, but had little success there. In the 1950s, he ran a small farm just outside of Honiara. (Information from Alan Lindley, 39 June 2011) The sons suffered prejudice from being of mixed-race origin. The youngest worked in various jobs on Guadalcanal and was involved is a series of brawls and resultant charges, but was seldom convicted. Geoff was acknowledged by the Americans for his coastwatcher work but never by the British, which is why, after a short stint as a Native Medical Practitioner on Malaita he refused to work for the Protectorate Government and chose to manage the family businesses. After the war, Charlie assisted the Anglican Melanesian Mission, but they refused to train him as a priest since they regarded him as European and only wanted indigenous priests. In 1959, he claimed to have received spiritual revelations by which God instructed him to form a new, completely local church. It was based on a combination of Anglican and Catholic beliefs. He took the title of Bishop and claimed to be able to cure diseases. Heinrich Kuper died in 1958, survived by his wife and children. (Time Magazine, 2 Sept. 1947; Kuper 1924, 1926; G. Kuper 1937; Davenport 1970)

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Published resources

Book Sections

  • Davenport, William H., 'Two Social Movements in the British Solomons that Failed and their Political Consequences', in Marion W. Ward;Susan C. Tarua;May Dudley (ed.), The Politics of Melanesia, Fourth Waigani Seminar, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University and the University of Papua New Guinea, Canberra and Port Moesby, 1970, pp. 162-172. Details

Journal Articles

  • Kuper, Geoffrey, 'An Initation Ceremony in the British Solomon Islands', Medical Practitioner, Suva, vol. 2, 1937, pp. 387-398. Details
  • Kuper, Henry, 'A Solomon Islands Historical Drama: Mako-Mako, Ai-Matauwa and Ai-Fono-Fono', Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 131, 1924, pp. 162-165. Details
  • Kuper, Henry, 'Tapitapi, or, The Tattooing of Females on Santa Ana and Santa Catalina, Solomon Group', Journal of the Polynesian Society, vol. 35, 1926, pp. 1-5. Details