It is believed that blondes could only be found among Caucasians; so, how do the Melanesians, mostly located east of Papua New Guinea in Oceania, have the striking contrast of the darkest skin in the world outside of Africa and blonde hair? This question has baffled many people and scientists for years.
For many years, blond hair was attributed to Caucasians yet the Melanesians of Solomon Islands are one among the few groups with blonde hair outside Europe.
These Unique Melanesians are black island people in the south pacific who migrated more than a few thousands of years ago, long before the Africans who came to the Americas as slaves.
The name Melanesia was first used by Jules Dumont d’Urville back in 1832 to denote an ethnic and geographical grouping of islands distinct from Polynesia and Micronesia.
The present evidence from scientists suggests that the cultural, linguistic, and political fragmentation of Melanesians that prevailed at the time of European arrival, with a half-dozen languages and cultures often represented on a single island, was partly a product of transformation that had occurred during the previous 2,000 years.
Until recently, the indigenous Melanesian people practiced cannibalism, head-hunting, kidnapping, and slavery, like the Asmat tribe.
The Melanesian people of the Solomon Islands are the point of interest when it comes to dark skin and blond hair. The Solomon Islands are located in the South Pacific, the very heart of Melanesia, just Northeast of Australia, between Papua and Vanuatu and is an independent state within the British Commonwealth.
Though the indigenous Melanesian population of the islands possesses the darkest skin outside of Africa, between 5 and 10 percent have bright blond hair.
There’ve been several theories on how these people got their blond hair. Some suggest it’s from the sun and salt whitening, high fish intake, or genetic heritage from mixed-breeding with Americans/Europeans that founded the islands.
A geneticist from Nova Scotia agricultural college in Canada, Sean Myles, conducted a genetic analysis on saliva and hair samples from 1209 Melanesian Solomon Island residents. From comparing 43 blond Islanders and 42 brown Islanders, he discovered that the blondes carried two copies of a mutant gene that is present in 26 percent of the island’s population. The Melanesian people have a native TYRP1 gene that is partly responsible for the blond hair and melanin and is distinct to that of Caucasians as it does not exist in their genes.
It’s a recessive gene and is more common in children than in adults, with hair tending to darken as the individual matures.
Melanesia currently has over 1,000 languages, with pidgins and creole languages developing from trade and cultural interaction centuries before European encounter. Christianity is the main religion, with many missionaries across the area though some people still practice their native religions such as the belief in a variety of spirits that inhabit the forests, mountains, and swamps.
Just like the rest of the world, the tropical region of Melanesia has had to grapple with some social problems such as alcoholism, crime, and other serious health conditions like malaria, as well as AIDS, particularly in Papua New Guinea.
In spite of these challenges, the region, with its beautiful islands, is to many people a paradise with an exotic history and culture and the happiest and friendliest people in the world.
Nethmi Jayatilleke is a University Undergraduate by day and Freelance Content Writer by night. An avid lover of music, theatre and poetry, Nethze (Her Nickname) considers herself to be a professional procrastinator. She loves adventure, wildlife and is a caffeine dependent. Nethmi enjoys writing articles ranging from serious topics like politics and social issues to more lighthearted things like art, pop culture, and nature. In her spare time, nethmi loves writing food reviews and poetry.