Sunday, August 23, 2015

Traditional Dances; Native Customs

On the way to Mount Yasur to see the volcano, we stopped at a Kastom Village where the natives put on a dance performance and showed us some of their ways. This is a way some villages raise money for the community. We have had a number of these experiences in the various islands throughout the Pacific Ocean. It never gets boring as they are all different.

Again, like in our Welcoming Ceremony, the whole community participated in the program. The little ones were very cute as they were taking their dances very seriously. And they look so darling in their costumes.


The word “costume” makes one assume garments. Not so much here in the land of sunshine! Actually, the Kastom male dancers here in Tanna would be what is called Big Namba. This is because the materials used to cover their penises is much more than that of the Small Nambas that we saw last year in Avokh Island in the Maskelynes off Malakula. Regardless of the quantity of plant materials used, the only area of the male body covered is the penis. Some male faces were painted.

As for the women here, they wore the skirts made of plant fiber and some face painting. Needless to say, that living without bras to support their breasts had taken its toll. No one was perky! Of course, they have also nursed numerous children, too. And they breastfeed children until they are two! When the ladies danced, they held their breasts with their arms – I am sure for comfort and not out of modesty.

Following the dancing, one man demonstrated how they light a fire without matches. It was quite impressive and I was surprised at how quickly it lit. Several members of the group tried to do it without the same success. There was a display of carvings and Dennis asked how much they were, but no one replied so he figured they were not for sale. Later I asked Werry, our driver, and he said they were for sale. There is that lack of entrepreneurial spirit again.

I think we need to go back to these villages and teach them how to get money out of the tourists’ pockets! Actually, there was a donation bucket, but only Dennis and one other put anything in it. I just don’t understand people. Yes, we had paid for the performance in the tour, but what are a few Vatu to us when a little means so much to them! We try to leave some cash in each village we visit, even if we really don’t want the items we may buy.

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