The "Black Pacific" and decolonisation in Melanesia: Performing negritude and indigenitude
In the 19th century Melanesians were pejoratively labelled black by European maritime explorers (mela = black; nesia = islands). Emerging scholarship on the Black Pacific focuses on historical and contemporary identifications and articulations between Oceanian and African diasporic peoples, cultures and politics based upon shared Otherness to colonial occupiers. This essay contributes to such scholarship by presenting a perspective from Melanesia with a focus on music, a popular form of countercolonial expression. It examines in two broad phases person-to-person and person-to-text encounters with Atlantic-based notions of Black Power and négritude. The Pacific War serves as a dividing line and turning point, during and following which such encounters began to intensify. The discussion links these African diasporic intellectual traditions/discourses/epistemologies with that of indigènitude, that is, performed global expressions of Indigenousness, through allusions to Black transnationalism and the ways both movements address the "inferiority confusion" that arose from experiences of colonisation. It demonstrates how in the last 35 years in particular, Melanesians have worked to invert the demeaning intention of their colonial racial construction and, in the process, have helped to create what may now be thought of as the Black Pacific.