Our good fortune>good timing; remarkable authentic traditional celebration - young boy's entry to manhood

Sea Mist > Sold to New Owners July 2016
John and Cheryl Ellsworth
Thu 1 Sep 2011 00:41

Our day:

·         6:10 am > very loud conch shell trumpeting from the village….calling everyone to the celebration

….…and for us a call to shower/breakfast>and then dinghy to shore….and 1 km walk to the village compound where everyone was already gathered and preparing the scene for the celebration


·         A little background:

Ø  This is a village on the south/east corner of the Island of Tanna, the village has a population of 383

Ø  2 weeks ago, 3 boys age of 8, were circumsized by the village elder and left to themselves in the compound for the 2 weeks (to heal) and manage themselves without going back to their homes/families …. The celebration today is their “coming out to manhood” and their freedom begins to be able to go back to their homes/families/village activity

Ø  Today, all the village has prepared in advance to offer gifts to the families of the 3 boys…and also their contributions to the community to hold this MAJOR annual event…and the culmination in a huge feast for all to participate in

Ø  They brought all those gifts (live or dead animals/kava/taro(and other root vegatables), woven baskets and large mats( to cover ground to sit on) to the compound

Ø  Many of the village people of all ages dressed in very colourful -  “custom” - traditional costume as they would be participating in the traditional dances during the ceremonies.

·         7:15 am > Cheryl and I arrive at the compound ….and are graciously welcomed and offered seating on a log at the side; shortly after, some of our fellow sailors arrive and take up seating with us at the side of the compound where all the village people have gathered before us

·         A number of men and women are spreading VERY COLOURFUL AND VARIED swaths of cloth on top of a pile in the middle of the compound; we learn from some of the village people that this huge pile has been built from all the root vegetables that have been brought to the celebration>the swaths of cloth are decorating the top of this big pile>dozens/maybe hundreds of swaths are laid in mixed arrays on top of the pile until the baskets originally containing them are completely empty

·         We see a cow standing at the side of a path that exits the compound on the opposite side….many dogs are wondering around the compound

·         We hear a pig squealing loudly - out of our site – and then we see eight men carrying a pole with the big, live squealing pig bound by its hoofs so that it is hanging from the pole; they put the pole/pig on the ground…. positioned close by the large pile of colored fabrics; then one of the men came forward with a huge club and promptly killed the pig with a couple of considered blows to its head

·         Then there appeared from the path on the opposite side of the compound, a procession of men women and children ….and they were dragging the previously seen standing but now dead cow that had been obviously killed out of our sight by a knife to its neck

·         Next followed another procession…this time with a similarly freshly killed goat

·         The a smaller procession with a butchered, full beef hind quarter

·         Then a very colourful and elaborate costumed procession with men and boys of all ages and the 3 circumsized boys towards the middle of the procession …each with green leaved head dress and green lays….others in the procession carried sugar cane and other bundles of plants arranged artistically…..and after parading around the central pile a couple of times, all of the sugar canes and other items were laid in a circular arrangement on top of the pile of fabrics, etc

·         Traditional dances/song now started with men, women and children of all ages in traditional grass and fabric costumes

·         A parade of the rest of the gathering began passing by the 3 boys who were now seated on the ground at the side of the circular compound…….a variety of gifts were given and they shook hands/congratulated the boys…..we and our fellow sailors joined in the parade and gave our gifts (for Sea Mist it was a multi tool knife for each boy and a book on beginning sailing///one for each.

·         Following the dances/gift giving parade……3 men/village elders gave speeches/told stories to the gathering in local tongue

·         As soon as the “talks” were over, the pile of root vegetables was uncovered (swaths of cloth and baskets taken to the side for folding and then off to the homes in the villages) and heavy bundles of all these root vegetables were taken in woven straw basket type carriers by men to the place where the feast was now going to be prepared….some distance away…..in another compound for that purpose; also at this time, some straw baskets and a number of root vegetables were brought over the group of us sailors for us to share

·         The 3 animals (pig/cow/goat/and beef quarter) were now carried or dragged from the compound….also to be prepared for the “in the gound” cooking in advance of the feast that will begin around 3 pm

·         We then conversed with a number of the village people for awhile ….gathering more understanding of what we had witnessed/

·         It was now about 9:30 am….the time had just flown by


We have been so very fortunate in our timing of being here at Port Resolution ….and last week at Anatom for the reconciliation ceremonies.  Extremely unique traditional cultural activities that would be very rare for those of us from the developed, western world to ever witness….WOW!!....what else can we say.


Cheryl and I took our time to walk back the 1 – 2 km to the location of the Port Resolution Yacht Club….a most scenic setting….a good place for me to enjoy a couple of their ice cold “Tuskers” Vanuatu beer….while Cheryl busied herself with lots of photo ops.


It is now coming on 11:30 am….on this, once again, beautiful blue sky day….and we are just relaxing through the middle part of the day.


For me, and for Dave of Leu Cat, we have to be back “on duty” at 4 pm at the village >>>>> next important part of today’s celebration….AFTER, the feast…..the men of the village gather together in their compound of solitude for kava drinking….and we have been invited to join in!


That’s all for now; maybe another installment later this evening after the kava….or maybe not….time will tell. Tomorrow, Friday, late morning, we will weigh anchor and Sea Mist will sail off to the north-west to reach the Island of Efate and the city of Port Vila….capital of Vanuatu…expecting to reach there mid-day on Saturday.


Cheers to all….the Seamisters/John and Cheryl