Solomon Islands > Santa Ana Island


Owaraha or Owa Raha is an island in the Solomon Islands; it is located in Makira-Ulawa Province.


This relatively small coral island is 5.6 km long and 4.5 km wide. It is located at the eastern end of Makira, separated from it by a 7.5 km wide strait, and just north of smaller Owariki. The sound between Owaraha and Owariki is only 2.5 km wide. The island has two main villages Gupuna and Nafinotoga. The inhabitants of Owaraha speak the Owa language and share the same culture with the people in Owariki and in the eastern end of Makira Island. The Pagewa and Aiga Tatari clans of Owaraha and other nearby islands claim descent from the refugees from Teonimanu which was washed away.


First recorded sighting by Europeans was by the Spanish expedition of Álvaro de Mendaña on 4 July 1568. More precisely the sighting and also landing in Owahara was due to a local voyage done by a small boat, in the accounts the brigantine Santiago, commanded by Francisco Muñoz Rico and having Hernán Gallego as pilot. They charted it as Santa Ana.

Owaraha was visited by Austrian anthropologist and photographer Hugo Bernatzik in 1932. Bernatzik carefully documented daily life among the island people and published an ethnography a few years later. He also took some of the best and earliest photographs of the islanders, reflecting a culture that he deemed was dying in contact with the modern world.

During his sojourn in Owaraha Bernatzik met Heinrich Küper, a German adventurer who lived in Gupuna village. Küper was married to a respectable local woman, Kafagamurirongo, and was the only white who ever reached the arafa status within a Melanesian community. Küper's grandchildren still live in Owaraha.

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