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 Islands of Oceania - Vanuatu

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Registration date : 2007-06-10

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PostSubject: Islands of Oceania - Vanuatu   Islands of Oceania - Vanuatu Icon_minitimeThu 14 Jun 2007 - 4:03

Vanuatu consists of a number of small islands grouped together, here are some interesting information about the traditions, beliefs and traditional healing found on these Islands of Oceanea....

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Ambrym Island

Ambrym is home to over 7000 islanders who live mostly on the coast, in the north, south-west and south-east. This island is famous for its huge and magnificent volcanoes of Benbow and Maroum.
Major custom events observed on Ambrym are the grade-taking ceremonies, especially in the north of the island.

If several men are taking the grades, more than 100 pigs can be slaughtered for the occasion. During these events, dances are organised, of which the most striking dance is the Rom Dance held in July or August every year. The island's major art forms are the famous carved slit-gongs, "ating-ating", some measuring up to 6 meters. Ambrym is definitely "the sculptors' island".Tree-fern figures from Ambrym have become very popular and you can see several of these in Port-Vila. They represent male or female figures with their hand clasped on their belly. The spirits of the ancestors are believed to be embodied in the carving.

Epi Island

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Epi is a peaceful island with beautiful white sandy coves, both white and black sand beaches, and inshore reefs. The interior is rugged and covered with lush rainforest.

The people of Epi, residing along the coast, are known for their ability to work magic and invoke ancestral spirits. In the past, magic was used to harm their rivals and presently young male islanders use love magic to win the hearts of their favourite girls. The islanders believe that magic works strongest around volcanoes.

Malekula Island

Malekula, settled by Europeans in the early 19th century, is the second largest island of Vanuatu and the most diverse regarding culture and linguistics with more than 30 languages spoken here.

The rare culture of Malakula has been very well preserved. Nimagki grades are strictly followed in south-west Malakula and among the Big Nambas in the north. The young men in South-West Bay have around 35 grades to pass in the process of becoming a big man or a chief. Traditionally, power is transferred to the eldest son with this being the only tribe in the island with hereditary chiefs.

Malekula is also the home of the Small Nambas and the more famous Big Nambas living in the north-west. The Big Nambas were the least affected by white settlers because of their reputation as cannibals and fierce warriors. The Big Nambas wear a large mass of purple pandanus fibres held by a very thick bark belt around the waist. Their reputation as fierce warriors extended throughout the whole Pacific. No foreigner could venture into their territory in the early 20th century. The lack of contact helped them to survive all epidemics until the early 1930s.

Small Nambas live in south central Malakula and have also kept their "kastom" ways alive. Their name comes from the size of the leaves they use as nambas. Men and women live apart in the central villages. In the mountains, the village is built around the dance place with standing tam tams, a funeral platform or "dolmen" (for sacrifice and pig killing). It is taboo for the women to penetrate the dance area who live elsewhere in their communal hut.

Tanna Island

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Tanna is the most populated island in Tafea Province and is almost entirely Melanesian. Most of its 20000 inhabitants still closely follow the lifestyle of their ancestors and their custom. The major attraction of Tanna is Mt. Yasur, known as the world's most accessible active volcano.

Tanna still strongly adheres to its culture and custom with many villages preferring their traditional way of life. The Tanna people recognize the importance of their 'kastom' and expect all visitors to travel with local guides. Many people in Tanna rely solely on traditional plant medicine to treat their illnesses. The local doctors, or kleva, are healers with special abilities to cast spells on enemies.

Dances and custom ceremonies are held throughout the year. The Nekowiar or Toka ceremony is the most impressive. The festival lasts three days and the village hosting the ceremony tries to improve upon the previous one with respect to quantity of food and gifts i.e. pigs, mats, etc. that are offered to the guest villages. A beauty contest takes place where women and men elaborately paint their faces.

Pentecost Island

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The island of Pentecost is famous as the originator of the most remarkable custom and traditions observed in the country. Here, custom traditions are very much alive. In the north the people are Anglican and in the centre, around Melsisi, there is Catholics dominance.

The custom and culture are totally different in the south where the Nagol is practised. Kava "blong Pentecost" is a traditional drink made from the root of a pepper plant and is believed to be the best in Vanuatu. Every year in April, when the first yam crop is ready, the islanders on the south of the island start building a huge tower for the land diving. This tower is usually completed in about 5 weeks’ time.

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All materials like lianas, branches, trunks are from the forest and a wooden tower between 20 to 30 meters high is erected. On several occasions between April and May, boys and men jump from these structures with two long vines attached to their ankles to break their fall. Each diver selects his own vine and its size is of utmost importance since only 10 cm too long vine can prove fatal. This land diving is known as Nagol here and is practised to ensure a great yam harvest the following year.

Maewo Island

This thin and rugged island stretches 56 km with a hilly chain sprawled across the central part of the island and black sand beaches along both coastlines.

Maewo is famous for its ancient secret societies with magic being performed here by extremely skilled sorcerers. Some traditional dances performed by men of the island are taboo for women who are not allowed to see any of the dances and the dancing ground is also forbidden territory for some time after the dance. Women have their own dances that cannot be seen by men too and these are some restrictions that will be faced by those visiting here.

There are more Islands in this group, but these are the ones I could find religious and traditional cultural beliefs and customs on...

love and rainbows


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