Known for its incredible variety of traditional festivals, Vanuatu is set to play host to another culture-rich calendar of events in 2015, encompassing history, arts and tradition. Here are just a few must-see festivals for the year ahead.
Famous around the world, people come from all over to bear witness to the brave land diving ritual (Nagol or N’gol) in south Pentecost Island. The traditional event takes places across three different jump sites, Londot, Lonorore and Rangusuksu. Men and boys as young as seven jump from a 20 to 40 metre high manmade tower with only a vine tied around their ankle, carefully selected by experienced land divers. The festival takes place every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from April to mid-June.
Taking place in the ancient Fanla village on Ambrym Island, the mystical Rom Dance and Black Magic Festival is as authentic as it gets in Vanuatu. With around 20 energetic dancers in ceremonial head dresses and costumes dancing to the powerful beat of the Tam Tam drums, the festival draws a crowd of over 300 village people. Rarely seen by outsiders, visitors to Vanuatu can watch this circumcision ceremony which also includes traditional bamboo music, mouth organ playing, traditional cooking, weaving demonstrations and powerful black magic. Visitors can also purchase some traditional wood and lava stone carvings to take home with them.
In July 1774, Captain Cook landed in Port Sandwich to a friendly welcome from the indigenous locals. Some 200 years later, the community of Lamap invites travellers to come to their village and celebrate. The Port Sandwich Arts Festival is held over two days and displays a wealth of customs and cultural activities. Held at Dravail Village close to Lamap on Malekula, the festival comprises an authentic pig exchange ceremony, local skills display, as well as dance music and stories combined with delicious organic local fare. There’s also the option to stay with a host family in the village overnight to become truly immersed in the authentic experience.
A three day festival in Olal Village in north Ambrym, the Back To My Roots Festival celebrates the local customs, history and culture that are signatory to Ambrym, such as traditional dances, demonstrations of magic and other local culture. The festival centres on Halhal Fantor village in the Olal region, which boasts a string of events. The first day begins with a traditional opening ceremony (Hipipirrhan), followed by traditional dances, flute-playing, magic, local food, children’s games and sand drawing displays. The festival concludes with a performance of the local custom dance.
Taking place in August over two days, the Lakona Bay Kastom Festival on Gaua Island packs a punch when it comes to experiencing the local culture of Vanuatu. The festival exhibits traditional dancing and rituals along with a wood and stone carving and weaving demonstrations. In the evening, guests can enjoy kava tasting, cooking and dining on local cuisine as well as a night of music on the beach.