Vanuatu 30th Anniversary

David & Valerie Allen
Thu 5 Aug 2010 02:43
17:44.23 S       168:18.52 E

Wednesday, July 28- Saturday July 31, 2010.

We had planned to go sailing among some of the other islands in Vanuatu.  However, Dave came down with a terrible cold and really would not have been able to enjoy the experience.  Also, we heard that plans were afoot to have a special four-day celebration for the islands' 30th anniversary since independence was granted.  Thinking that is Mohammed couldn't get to the mountain....etc.  

The celebrations actually started about a week earlier as there were fireworks from various quarters nightly.  We heard the marching band going to the Parliament grounds, but were not quick enough to get ashore.  I am rather glad we didn't as part of the opening service was the killing by club (traditional manner) of a pig.  Pigs (wild or domestic) play a large role in ceremonies and in providing protein in Vanuatu.  Funeral ceremonies and rites of passage have traditionally involved pigs.  Bride prices and fines for infringements of tabus also were paid in pigs.

There were several cultural performances throughout the four days.  The first made us feel like we were still in Tanna.  Dave enjoyed some Tanna coffee from one of the booths at the Museum park.

Good strong Tanna coffee

Then a village from Tanna performed a kastom dance.  After the diet we were on while we visited it is no wonder the men are all so lean and fit.  Rice, omelet and organic vegetables seem to be very effective.

Tanna dancers.  Note the natural accessories.

Islands with active volcanos have traditionally been associated with magic and black magic.  Tanna is one of those islands.  The strongest source of magic is the island of Ambryn, north of Efate.  Ambryn has twin active volcanos and active lava lakes.

One of the most colourful and well-known islands is that of Malekula.  It is located northwest of Efate.  This is the home of the Big Nambas and the Smol Nambas.  Nambas are the penis sheaths worn by the men.  The Smol Nambas wear a sheath made from a single leaf and looped over a small wrap belt.  The Big Nambas sport a woven sheath looped over a very broad belt.  Up until the 1960s cannibalism was practiced throughout the islands, but especially on this island.  The performance at the festival by the West Baie Malekulas was very impressive.  It began with drummers on the huge tamtams.  These look like giant wood carvings with a slit vertically down the front.  Apparently the largest ones could be heard 30 km away.

Malekula drummers

Malekula dancers

Close up of a Malekula dancer.  The object he is holding probably is a yam- a crucial root crop in the islands.  Obviously Malekulans traditionally didn't have a big clothing budget!

The next dancers were supposed to be from Pentecost Islands, but the local people around us informed us that they were really from Tonga.  This week there is also a South Pacific Conference in Port Vila and  obviously some of the neighbouring countries offered to participate.

Tongan dancers.  Note the tapa cloth made from tree bark.

Tongan women taking part.

The dancers from New Caledonia held a very interesting dance.  They reinacted the arrival of Europeans in their islands, with the subsequent battles and eventually they made peace and rowed off together in canoe formation.

New Caledonian warriors

Members of the audience tended to back up when these warriors lunged at them!

All around the Paleman grounds there were stalls made from wood and palm and pandanus leaves and colourfully decorated.  They did a roaring business in selling homemade food and desserts as well as souvenirs.  Most of the women wore their best "Mother Hubbards" and everyone had a great time- despite the frequent cloudbursts.

Booths at the Paleman Grounds.

The final night of fireworks was spectacular and very timely for the rally members.  They were just before we went to Cafe du Village to celebrate Pete's 60th birthday (Bali Blue).  What a great time with some wonderful people!