Sunday, August 23, 2015


Sore from so much dancing the night before, we made our way back to the village. Another sailboat arrived the evening before, so they joined in the festivities. That meant another "welcome" song and village greeting. On Friday though, the weather was not very nice. We got lots and lots and lots of rain. But the dampness did not deter the festive feeling nor the attitude of the villagers. They still went all out.

First on the docket for the day was learning about how they prepared traditional "kakae" (or food). They did everything in a specially designed cooking hut. They showed us how they made their stone pit fires as well as a "bush" fire out of tree fern wood. The women were all using only nature made tools to prepare the food and the men used rocks and sharpened sticks to make the fire box. The tools were shells to get the coconut meat out of the husk; the thick end of palm frond with some slits in it as a grater; thin slivers of bamboo as cutting knives for the was all fascinating and seemed quite hard work. They pounded the cooked taro, manioc and yam into a pulp with bamboo stalks and used banana leaves as pot holders (though no pots)! The root vegetables were tossed into the hot rock pits to cook and the coconut was cooked in banana leaves.

We then saw some traditional "magic." This was great and quite entertaining. They made coconut water turn red while still in the husk by waving fronds over them; they lifted a conch shell with a palm frond; eating a poisonous sea snake (didn't quite see that one); and a battle scene where one man gets stabbed ("blood" and all) and later comes back to life! It was all quite fun and the local crowd loved it.

There was more dancing on day two – the final men's dance was a very special one with elaborate costumes and headdresses. The figures represent different spirits and the people in the crowd would each have their own special "family spirit." This dance is rarely performed at their ceremonies – maybe only once a year.

During all the dances over the two days there are these "creatures" that come out and dance around the crowds – not really part of the actual dance – but as a sideshow. They are covered head to toe in greenery – and known as the "manbush." They each have a slightly different headdress and one in particular is the "devil" manbush. He is amazing. He runs around in this costume and chases the children and they run from him. He is constantly moving, jumping and dancing - for hours! They were the figures we saw on the beach that greeted us as we pulled into the anchorage. During the two days of festivities they would come out at random times as well as during all the dances.

On day two, the participatory activity was a demonstration of the bow and arrow shooting at a very small target. The first man up, hit a bulls eye first shot! Amazing. Then the yachties gave it a try and only one of us all managed to hit a bit of the palm frond on the bottom of the target. These bows and arrows and the string – again were all made from the products available on Gaua – a taught vine, a flexible wood and a thin shaft of hardwood for the arrow.

We got another meal – a nice traditional lunch – from the cooking demonstration seen earlier. Plus, they showed the system of grade earning in a pig killing ceremony. This is where a man earns a new title or a step up in the village hierarchy. It costs the man a pig or two. This was showing how a man is made a chief. The ceremony was done in front of the very traditional "nakamal" - traditional community building or in this case, the kastam chief's personal nakamal for "men" only. It is where the headdresses are stored for ceremonies and where the men meet and drink kava. The pig that was killed in this ceremony can only be eaten by men because of the type of ceremony it was used for. It is still a culture that isn't based on sexual equality!

The day's activities ended with an amazing sight and sound - "water music." You'll read more about that in the next entry.

That evening – though it was raining hard, there was still a bonfire, music, dancing and kava as well as another meal. Though the folks were now dressed in non traditional clothes so they wouldn't get too cold in their "kastam dress."
At 8/23/2015 4:43 AM (utc) S/V Astarte was located at 14°12.47'S 167°34.19'E

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