Part Seven


Circumcision Ceremony

Yakupen, Vanuatu







August 30, 2012


Not all circumcision ceremonies on Tanna are fully kastom. When the villagers are church-going Christians, the traditional dress and dancing are downplayed. Such was the case with the ceremony we were invited to in Yakupen, one of the villages at Port Resolution.



Sam is the chief of this village and Jocelyn is his wife. He is quiet and smiles often. She is friendly, bright, well educated, extremely articulate and also quick to smile. As chiefs on Tanna usually have spokespeople, it seems Jocelyn is his.

Their philosophy differs somewhat from Stanley's and Werry's at Ireupouw. Perhaps they understand better what yachties want and see the business opportunities we provide. What is perceived by some as fund raisers and advantage taking are interpreted by others as beneficial opportunities for interaction.



I met Sam and Jocelyn last year while returning from Marie's garden. We chatted for a few minutes and I asked to take their photo. They obliged but I never got a chance to give them a copy. The ceremony was my opportunity.



Carolyn's sister lives in Yakupen and her son was one of the circumcised boys. Carolyn asked if I could provide some ingredients for a laplap that would be served to the yachties and if I would make a chocolate cake for her nephew. No problem, we are always happy to contribute.

The morning of the ceremony Jim, Lori Lynn and I joined Michael and Christine of New Horizons and Alene and Bruce of Migration on shore for coffee at Avoca before walking to the ceremony with Anneth (pronounced Annette) and some of the children of Ireupouw. We arrived to find a cluster of fair skinned yachties wrapped in synthetic adventure garb and draped with daypacks huddled together. We sat with our local friends.



A few minutes after we'd settled on Marie's pretty woven pandanus mat, a procession of men filed out of the bush. Sam and the newly circumcised boys were dressed traditionally but most of the other men simply wore shorts and t-shirts. No feathers decorated their heads. They walked around the modest pile of presents as the crowd looked on.



The men gathered together for a while before walking in small groups to the pile and carrying bits and pieces away. Soon there was nothing left.



A bundle of laplap was brought to the clearing and laid before the ladies and children in front of us. Two ladies cut pieces and distributed them. My eyes lit up, mi likem laplap.



Nancy, the nurse at the Port Resolution dispensary with Johnson, saw Lori Lynn and me in a big hug. She rushed over to be sure I was not sick. I guess they don't do that sort of thing here. Or, perhaps she was concerned that we'd finally figured out we'd settled down very close to the spot where the cow had been butchered shortly before our arrival. She made sure we missed its final big pile of excrement. Glad we saw that after the laplap!



Once everyone had finished their laplap the festivities moved to a different clearing where a long, covered area promised more food. The newly circumcised boys were presented to the community and then sat on a mat in front of Sam, Jocelyn and others to be greeted by everyone. At this point individual presents were given to the boys.

The boys of Christian villages have their circumcisions performed at the hospital in Lenakel, not in the bush by the chief's oldest son.


































First the families greeted the boys and then the rest of the crowd. Jim and I followed at the end, laid our gifts down for the boys and then I gave Sam the framed picture we'd printed. He and Jocelyn seemed pleased.



Carolyn told me to have the yachties enter the food area from the left side so I spread the word. Once we had all helped ourselves to the plentiful salad bar, the Ni-Vans entered from the right and were served a less colorful but heartier meal of taro and yams. We all had popo (papaya) for dessert. The cakes brought by a few of the boats were nowhere to be seen.



After the meal we learned that even the yachties received a pile of food. How hospitable and generous! Richard, a travelling carpenter from NZ, had been staying in Yakupen and was dressed for the occasion. He rounded up a knife and cut the meat, taro and yams into portions we could all take back to our boats.



Jim and I settled under the shade of the big banyan as the dancing began. Before long, Lori Lynn was up dancing with the ladies and girls. They were delighted! Although the dancing was completely different than that at the kastom ceremony, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.



Go to August 2012 Part Eight Ikquaramanu Village, Tanna, Vanuatu


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