Sept. 30 – Big Nambas on Ranon, Ambrym

Anchor was up at 11:30am and we headed to Ranon, a short 1.5 hour motor up the coast.  We anchored in front of a village and made arrangements with a local to see a Rom dance in the afternoon.  He charged us 4500 vatu plus 500 vatu to guide us on a path up and over the hill, through various villages in the jungle.  It took about an hour to get there and we met plenty of ni-Van along the way.  We hiked along ridges overlooking the ocean and into deep valleys where birds and cicadas filled the air with their sounds.

The Rom dance  is a traditional ceremony including the Big Nambas.  When a man wants to move up in the village structure, he has to make elaborate arrangements for a mask, buying it with pigs and cash.  Then he goes to the nakamal (men’s clubhouse) where details are worked out for making the costume and training and rehearsals take place for days.  Finally he performs wearing the elaborate mask – a tall conical shape, brightly painted with banana fibers – and a thick cloak of banana leaves.  The Big Namba (penis sheath) is about winding large purple pandanus fibers around the penis, tucking the loose ends into a thick bark belt, leaving the testicles to swing freely.

Well.  What we saw was a dance with traditional costumes, the Big Nambas dancing and chanting around the Chief.  They performed in a corner of a large open area outside the Chief’s nasara (sacred area) in one of the villages while Jim, Karen and I walked around them taking loads of photos.  It was an endurance dance lasting close to half an hour.  Afterwards we could chat with some of the locals who also watched, but we were warned it was taboo for us to touch the costumes.

When we left Ambrym Chesapeake was covered in a fine dusting of black volcanic ash.  Even the rain didn’t wash it off.  Moi had to use vinegar and a rag.

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