Ben Bohane | Black Islands


Since 1994, acclaimed photojournalist Ben Bohane has lived and reported on the Pacific islands. In his new book The Black Islands – Spirit and War in Melanesia – Bohane traces a photographic journey through these beautiful but sometimes dangerous islands.

He dwells on a variety of kastom, cult and cargo cult movements, documenting their rituals and the hidden role they have sometimes played in island society. At times they have sparked, and later help end, the wars of this region. Bohane has spent much of the past 20 years documenting the conflicts of Melanesia in places like Bougainville, the Solomon Islands and West Papua, as well as the liberation of East Timor.

The book celebrates the joy of daily life in the islands too, from gardening to drinking kava. There are intimate portraits and sweeping landscapes. This is a region rich in culture and ritual, a 24/7 spirit world. Bohane’s classic black and white reportage offers a deeper narrative to the picture postcard version of the South Pacific we think we know.

Ben Bohane is part of the Australian photo collective, founder of and lives in Vanuatu.