Diverse interpretations of blackbirding attach varied significance to the extent of kidnapping, coercion or voluntary participation (Howe 1984).
From 1872 to the end of the nineteenth century, blackbirding was replaced by legal recruitment.
One former MEF man I spoke to on Malaita talked about RAMSI as the second coming of the Australians, returned to take them away again as they had done during the blackbirding
era (interview with KA).
For a very long time now, the main way in which people from the densely-populated island of Malaita have been able to access cash income has been by selling their labour, first during the blackbirding
era, then on the copra plantations of the British Protectorate period and, since the Second World War, in Honiara and on the nearby agricultural developments on north Guadalcanal (and, from 1997 until its closure during the conflict, at Gold Ridge mine to the east of Honiara).
During the mid-to-late nineteenth century the Sia Raga population came under escalating stress through a combined process of severe depletion by blackbirding
, introduced diseases, and an escalation of local fighting fuelled by introduced military technology.
There is no material culture explicitly connected to the period of blackbirding
and the sandalwood trade, colonial structures of administration under British and French rule, or struggles for independence, despite the role of the VCC as an educational resource for ni-Vanuatu schoolchildren.