Jon Frum Cult Village

Pacific Bliss
Colin Price
Sun 7 Jul 2013 20:05
Under the cover of darkness after our exhilarating volcano visit we had one more mission to complete. The delivery of a 30 year old documentary made by the BBC, for the 'everyman' series. Whilst in Tonga a lovely chap 'Nigel Evans' had shown a couple of documentaries he had produced and directed about life in Vanuatu.

The particular DVD that we had promised to deliver was based on the welcomed invasion of the Americans army and the subsequent whole that was left behind after they departed post 1945. Like all previous colonial invasions the Americans came with a more considerate and appreciated attitude towards the native population of Vanuatu. As like now the Ni-Van people are hugely accommodating but during British and French occupation they did tire of being treated like mere slave boys. It was a huge revelation to the local culture to find that the white 'superior' race could in fact refer to you as an equal.

The Village was in total darkness when we arrived the only light was the loom from the volcano along with the rumblings from the angry spitting fire dragon, quite a startling location for a village. Our guide, thankfully, wandered off into the darkness to find the Chief and 10 mins later a rather wizened old man emerged from the black. We came armed with our laptop so we would at least be able to show visually the gift we had. But Chief Isaac had obviously been sipping the old Kava from an early hour in the afternoon, so his eye sight was some what altered and certainly unable to cope with the glaring light from our screen. We think, he seem delighted but we're not very good at ascertaining the emotional state of the average Vanuatan especially those who belong to a cargo cult and who are totally cut on Kava juice. He was however 'quite' animated when he found himself looking at his younger self, by 40 years, clad in American military garb decorated in medals, but 5 min
s was more than the his eyes could take.

We had also made the journey to Jon Frum Village on Friday night so that we could attend weekly dance and music night. With very little expectation it too was a rather surreal experience. After our rather strange meeting with the chief we where left out to dry in the dark, but promised that the party was on it's way. Some 40 mins later a gong was sounded, then yet more waiting, during this time a little bit of shuffling and moment was seen deep in the darkness, but that was about it. Ten mins later the same gong was bashed again followed by a bit more furtive background movement. On the third round of clonking the bodies started to emerge from the trees and houses.

Not really having much expectation we found the experience pretty in line with all things 'Frum', often these nights singing and dancing can go on well into the following day but for why we didn't know. Having heard 3 sets of gongs being sounded over a period of half an hour finally the music began firstly outside the meeting house and then once the assembled group where seated in the center of the meeting open sided meeting house we where invited to sit around the outer edges. What we'd hoped for was a bit of traditional Vanuatu singing and dancing was in fact one group who repeatedly sang the same song about 10 times telling a story of a visionary dream one of the members had had. During this time other villagers milled on the darker outer areas around the meeting house. Only at the bright far gable end of the house where a group of 'men' and particular young boys giving it laldy in something more akin to the village disco. Strange? Yes. And an experience that quickly
followed by a long bumpy dusty dark ride home being covered in volcanic dust from the heavens.