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Vanuatu: Tanna traditional village

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Tanna traditional village | Vanuatu | Oceania

[Visited: November 2012]

It was a rainy day on Tanna - in fact, it would rain for 36 consecutive hours - and although I very much wanted to go up Mount Yasur to see it by daylight after the nightly visit the evening before, I realized it did not make much sense to get soaked and not even have a view. In fact, from my guesthouse, the volcano was not visible. Fortunately, I had a choice of other options, and decided to go to a traditional village which was not too far away. The guy who had taken me up the volcano the day before, joyfully accompanied me again, and we soon took a turn off the main road, and followed a muddy trail through the forest, meeting locals on the way. Like the day before, my guide left his mobile phone in a village to be charged as soon as he heard a generator - electricity is a scarce commodity in this region. We soon arrived in a village, continued walking for a bit, while behind us, we heard the beating on trees: the tamtam.

Picture of Tanna traditional village (Vanuatu): Circling the platform in traditional attire with Mount Yasur in the background

When we reached a platform a little further on, a view opened before our eyes, and we could now even see the contours of Mount Yasur in the distance. Smoke was continuously bellowing out of its flat top. A drizzle was coming down from the grey sky while the drumming became louder, and then the villagers showed up, dressed in traditional attire of grass skirts. They performed several dances, some performed by men, or women and children; there was one in which they all danced together. They stamped the floor with their strong feet, and clapped their hands loudly, thus indicating the rhythm of the dance, while circling the platform in rows. It was a powerful and energetic spectacle. Mount Yasur, my guide, and I were the only spectators as they performed some of their dances.

Picture of Tanna traditional village (Vanuatu): Villagers dressed up in grass skirts

After the performance was over, and I applauded their effort, feeling a little awkward, as I realized they had performed just for me alone, they went on to show their skills at making fire from wood, at shooting with bow and arrow. They were adamant I should also give it a shot, and after two miserable attempts, I was finally able to shoot the arrow high up into a tree, missing the target by a wide margin. Well, some training would certainly help me. I had the opportunity to take pictures of the crowd. I thanked all those who had performed for me, paid the kastom fee, left a tip in the small donation basket. When I turned around, the villagers had already started to get rid of their grass skirts, and would wear T-shirts and shorts for the rest of the day. The traditional culture is disappearing after the missionaries had tried hard to stop it, and apparently it is visitors just like me who keep it alive. I walked back to my guesthouse with mixed feelings.

Picture of Tanna traditional village (Vanuatu): Making fire using wood
Picture of Tanna traditional village (Vanuatu): Kids with grass skirts dancing a traditional dance
Picture of Tanna traditional village (Vanuatu): Old woman and child from a traditional village on Tanna island
Picture of Tanna traditional village (Vanuatu): Man, women and children dancing in their traditional attire
Picture of Tanna traditional village (Vanuatu): Track to the traditional village leading through the forest

Around the World in 80 Clicks

Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Tanna traditional village (Vanuatu). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Tanna traditional village.
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