Indigenous Culture of Tanna

Located in Tafea Province in Vanuatu, Tanna is a fascinating island with its local culture being quite unaffected through the years by the life of western societies. The local/native culture on the Island of Tanna retains a strong diversity through the villages; for example, they retain the same custom ceremonies and rituals through the years.

Customs & Diversity

The island of Vanuatu boasts around 113 distinct languages and dialects. For more than 3,000 years various immigrants from all over the world came in the island. In fact, each wave of immigrants was also carried with them their tools, in order to stay alive; like food and tree seedlings. Since many Europeans settled in the area, the lingua franca (known also as Bislama) was evolved, which is basically a form (phonetic) of the English language. Bislama was developed as the universal language of Vanuatu. In addition, the in the island contains a number of rituals, that are performed constantly throughout the year. For example, the locals tend to celebrate a number of events that happen in a person’s life, like a marriage or a death. These kind of rituals are extended through many generations in order certain events to be remembered.

Beliefs & Traditions

There are a number of legends that go along with the diverse culture in the island, like the different natural formations and the presence, as well as the cause of the volcanic eruptions along with other natural disasters. Even today, locals consider all the natural disastrous phenomena certain events that are brought to them by the actions of people, who may have offended the spirits. In fact, these kind of beliefs caused a number of problems and conflicts between the tribes in the past. There are a number of other traditions in Vanuatu. For example, every year around April and May, the locals construct tall wooden towers up to 70 feet on Pentecost Island. They perform a number of feasts around the tower, which is hold together by local vines.

Ceremonies & Rituals

In the island many ceremonies take place by the locals. Pig is considered to be very valuable, because it symbolizes the cornerstone of their ritual life and it does not only represent a source of protein. In fact, it’s a basic symbol for prosperity and wealth. Many people in Vanuatu perform certain rituals, where they kill many pigs with various rituals and later they give them as gifts to certain members of families, in order to strengthen their relationships. Pigs are considered to be the main form of prestige and money.

Local Economy

The economy in Vanuatu plays a very important role for the locals. They usually tend to give one another pigs or food corps as a means of transaction. For instance, local mothers pay the uncles of their boys with pigs, mats and food corps, in order their boys to be circumcised. Later the boys are taken into the bush to stay for several weeks or even months. There they are introduced new ways for them of how to become real men. Their economy is based mainly of the products they cultivate on their land. For example, they usually cultivate root crops, like taro, manioc and yam. In certain areas, a small part of the jungle is cleared with simple ways, in order to plant corps.

Back to History