Part Two


Banks Island Village

Luganville, Santo







October 15, 2012


The bushes around us rustled as we slowly approached the village. With a great collective cry, men wearing nothing but leaves, shells, bones and plenty of paint jumped out from all directions and ran to us with weapons drawn. We froze as they surrounded us hollering and posturing and positively intimidating us.



After a few moments of intense vibes they lowered their weapons and invited us in. This is the traditional response to strangers entering their land. In earlier days, I suppose if a visitor posed a threat, the outcome would have been quite different and his cooked body would be served for dinner.



Villagers from Mere Lava, one of the Banks Islands further north, have set up a kastom village at the Show Grounds in Luganville. They live here and offer demonstrations for visitors who cannot make it to the outer islands but would like the experience. Jim, Steve and I went to have a look.



Once inside, the men performed a welcoming dance before lining up. A lady greeted each of us and placed a flower behind our right ear.



Sandy, a villager who works on tour ships and understands what visitors like to see, has organized this wonderful, authentic tour. He told us about life in the village while we sat under a thatched roof and ladies wove pandanus leaves into fabric.



He explained how fire is made as a man demonstrated and he talked about the ritual of kava when a man prepared it for us. As it was still morning, our cups were small but the kava was tasty and potent.



It is important to eat something after drinking kava. We were offered baked bananas, taro, yams and pieces of lap lap cooked in the fire burning next to us.



After a question and answer session we followed the women to a clearing where they danced and sang for us. I was sitting on a log happily watching when a woman reached for my arm and brought me into their circle. My timing was a bit off, but it was fun dancing with them.







The women in the Banks Islands have an intriguing pastime. They wade into the sea to their waists and splash in unison to create a rhythmic racket with wonderful waterworks.

The village of Lewaton, the Banks Islanders' cultural village in Luganville, happens to have a concrete pool where the women perform this fascinating water music. Their slapping and splashing and enthusiastic hullabaloo create sounds of a waterfall, a baby dolphin called to its mother, the water lapping on shore and many others. The show is mesmerizing.


Click here to see and hear the water music performed



When the water music was over we were led back to the clearing. This time the men performed a farewell dance for us, but not before pointing their weapons in our direction one last time lest we forget who is in charge.



Go to October 2012 Part Three - Peterson Bay & The Blue Hole, Santo, Vanuatu


Go to Contents 2012

Go to Contents 2011

Go to contents 2010

Go to Contents 2009

Go to Contents 2008