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Vanuatu: Nemalits Small Namba's

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Nemalits Small Namba's | Vanuatu | Oceania

[Visited: November 2012]

When we were greeted by a broadly smiling, tall guy with blue body-paint, wearing not much more than a waist-band with bright-green leaves and the Small Namba, or penis sheath, after which the tribe is called, we immediately felt at ease. We had little idea of what to expect, and our Smol Namba guide managed to make us feel welcome instantly - our expectations of what was coming rose immediately. We were warned: after walking through the curtain-like entrance, his men would "attack" us. We had barely walked a few metres when a horde of men, all dressed up in menacing-looking attire stormed right at us, yelling, making my travel companion scream. The wild guys soon stopped though, and we all had a good laugh at their effort to "kill" us. The ice had been broken, especially when a young woman and girl put a double garland around us.

Picture of Nemalits Small Namba's (Vanuatu): Dance performed by Small Namba women

Our new Small Namba friend explained what was coming up now, and we were summoned to sit on a bamboo bench. The men that had just attacked us, now performed a dance, followed by a performance by the women. Next, we were shown daily tasks, such as making fire using a special kind of wood, which is rubbed until the stick is glowing hot; then, the sparks are used to set the dried husk of a coconut on fire. This can then be used to start a fire for cooking - which is exactly what the women did. Our guide took us to the other side of the open space, where the Small Namba women we had seen dancing just before, were now busy preparing food. Close to it, other young women were weaving sago palm leaves into a roof structure.

Picture of Nemalits Small Namba's (Vanuatu): Small Namba's performing one of their dances

We were now enjoying this display of skills and traditions as much as we could - and it would even get better. After grating a special kind of yam into some sort of paste, this was then put into a leaf, rolled up, sprinkled with coconut juice, and inserted into a bamboo stick. The sticks were put onto a fire, and we were really happy when we were then given the opportunity to taste it. It was hard to stop - but when our still smiling guide told us that we would be having a real lap-lap for lunch, we forced ourselves to save space for the experience. There was another dance, more drumming on the impressive wooden tam-tams with their carved faces on top, and we then had ample opportunity to meet the men and women, and take pictures. When asked, I found out that the charming girl would cost me 10 pigs to marry - and a couple of wild pig tusks, of course. Instead of planning a wedding, we left the great experience of Nemalits behind to discover the small island of Wala, just off the coast.

Picture of Nemalits Small Namba's (Vanuatu): Making fire without matches: Small Namba guy in action
Picture of Nemalits Small Namba's (Vanuatu): Playing the tam-tam for the traditional Small Namba dances
Picture of Nemalits Small Namba's (Vanuatu): Small Namba tam-tam used for making rhythmic music
Picture of Nemalits Small Namba's (Vanuatu): Small Namba chief with painted face, wearing a wild boar tusk
Picture of Nemalits Small Namba's (Vanuatu): Adding coconut milk to yam paste in a leaf
Picture of Nemalits Small Namba's (Vanuatu): Small Namba's kneeling during one of their dances
Picture of Nemalits Small Namba's (Vanuatu): After the fire is lit without matches, this Small Namba guy lights his cigarette
Picture of Nemalits Small Namba's (Vanuatu): Performing a dance: one of the Small Namba's of Nemalits
Picture of Nemalits Small Namba's (Vanuatu): Making a roof with sago palm leaves demonstrated by the Small Namba women
Picture of Nemalits Small Namba's (Vanuatu): Sand drawing demonstrated by a capable Small Namba
Picture of Nemalits Small Namba's (Vanuatu): For cooking, the food is wrapped into leaves and put inside bamboo sticks, then heated in the fire
Picture of Nemalits Small Namba's (Vanuatu): Strong guys of the Small Namba tribe after their performance
Picture of Nemalits Small Namba's (Vanuatu): Some of the Small Namba women of Nemalits

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