Big and small nambas on Malekula Aug. 25, 2013

We anchored in front of Wala Island with Charlie giving us hand signals where to drop the anchor.  No sooner was the engine turned off and he paddled out to the boat asking if he could be our tour guide for Wala and to take us to see the small nambas dance.  Nambas refer to a custom by some villages to wrap men’s penises with bark or plant materials.  The dancing preserves their historical customs of celebrating harvest, circumcision, and passing of status to the next generation.  The dance was divided between men and women each dancing separately, and reenacting a part of their culture.  Women harvesting yams and welcoming their son back from a month’s exile after circumcision (at age 10).  The men danced about the circumcision, about turning their rank of chief over to their son and some other celebration.  Here are some shots from the small namba dance.

Next day we started at 8am, taking the dinghy over to mainland Malekula with George.  We walked about half an hour to flag down a truck to ride into Lakatoro to the bank.  Jim and I were wedged into the truck bed with 5 other locals, our guide George, and three very large boxes.  Barely enough room to plant my feet in front of me while straddling the wooden bench.  The bank was chocka-block full but half an hour later I was able to change my New Zealand dollars for Vanuatu money.  Then  we took a half hour walk through an overgrown “park” where cattle and pigs were staked for grazing.  The farmers market was a tiny affair but I did get some bok choy wrapped in Pandanus leaves and some beautiful green beans.  We waited a while while George haggled with someone on the phone about arrangements for the big namba dance we were about to see.  The little “supermarket” had more bare shelves then full.  Finally our truck arrived taking us up into the rural hills to a large village mostly deserted because everyone had gone to a celebration someplace.  The ragtag group who greeted us did their best to give us a show of the big namba dance enlisting their tots who were a real delight to watch.  Then back in the truck again, Jim in the cab, George and I in the back where we bumped and jostled our way back to our dinghy.  By now it was 3:30, wind and waves were up and it was a very wet ride back to the boat.  We dropped George off at the jetty and he returned bringing more pomplemousse just as we were hoisting the dinghy onto davits getting ready to leave early in the morning.  We invited him aboard where we sipped hot tea and chatted for quite a while, still wet and salt crusty from the dinghy ride.

This is from the big namba dance.   The dancing was similar to the small namba dancers, and the little kids stole the show.  I mostly photographed the little kids.


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