Rom Dance, Ambrym

Pacific Bliss
Colin Price
Sun 27 Oct 2013 05:09
The Rom dance is the traditional dance of Ambrym
Ambrym is the home of carving, rom dance, small nambas, live volcano's hot springs and in our minds a hell of a lot of  over priced stuff.  Due to a previous engagement, climbing the volcano, we couldn’t make the full two day dance festival in Olal .  Like so many things here, Vanuatu timing comes into play,  as a result it seems we got the more condensed rendition of the whole event.  
IMG_7968IMG_7971IMG_7997 Two old felas out for a walk with nothing but penis sheaths and walking sticks – would this work in Bosham?
Vanuatu still holds it Kustom very seriously but the  Christian who where not eaten their dress codes where quickly adopted now however the reverse occurs.  When the tourists aren’t around these very serious traditional kustom dances are practiced with clothes on it’s only when the paying white man arrives that bums are bared.
We love the fact that the old spirit world has not been dismissed unlike most other places in the Pacific islands that we’ve visited so far.  Our guild up to Mount Marron asked Colin, in all seriousness if we had magic in our home village.  Well the parish council might be power to be reckoned with we’re not sure any mystical hocus pocus goes on.  What is so remarkable it how the traditional spirit world is able to sit so comfortably with the Good news bought here by the Missionaries.  I still feel that the Kustom by and large is the most important power to be reckoned with here.
The main event was the Rom dance itself with the huge masks and banana leaf dresses.  The Rom figures stomped in with the dancers around them and performed an ancient dance to a story of lost love and evil parents – much the same as many folk tales all over the world. The colourful masks are made specially each time the dance is performed for real, and then they are burnt afterwards until they are made again for the following year.  We hear there is a black market for the masks, as the North Ambrymers are never shy to turn a buck.  The lasted about an hour and came and went in intensity until finally with a final cheer, it was over and the mysterious Rom dancers disappeared back into the trees.


P7261729Colin and I loath the whole audience participation time, but this time Colin was unable to avoid playing centre stage.  A powerful nasal event, being locked in the middle of Ni-Van dancing men.  
Chief Joseph from Ranvatlum takes the children on a spot of land skiing down a muddy slope on coconut fronds  P7271866 Joseph is a whily old bugger who is happy to take anyone any where, for a price.....   Sadly we got rather embroiled with him over a carving of a bowl after agreeing a price he cannily managed to keep squeezing us for more trade and a lesser quality of wood that said object would be carved in.  We were due to return 2 months later to collect only it was just the beginning of a saga that Colin quickly ducked out of leaving his vicious wife to fight our corner.