Mavoonlefu is a traditional Ni-Vanuatu village situated on the southern end of Espiritu Santo.  It is similar to dozens of traditional or "custom" villages located all over Vanuatu.  These villages have elected to maintain a more traditional life style as this approach better fits the environment and economic condition of Vanuatu. 

Their decision to live in this manner does not preclude them from adopting aspects of life from the west including Christianity and western clothing but they are deliberate in their choices and they predominantly choose to feed, clothe, house and educate themselves based on their traditional methods.

Mavoonlefu villagers have noticed that tourists are fascinated by their lifestyle and they have decided to offer a cultural tour that gives the Santo visitor a glimpse into island life as it has existed for thousands of years.

The tour begins in the afternoon with pickups from the resorts and hotels and finishes just before dinner in the early evening.  Arrangements can be made through the resorts and hotels or at Nambawan Restaurant in the center of Luganville.

Visitors are greeted with a flower lei by the women of the village attired in traditional Mother Hubbard dresses.  The Mother Hubbard dress was introduced by missionaries and are now the predominant clothing worn by Ni-Vanuatu women. 

After the welcome, the village men lead the visitors on a short walk into the bush toward the ceremonial ground.  A custom dance that involves the men and women of the village is performed with considerable enthusiasm.  This sort of dance would be performed at special village occasions like weddings or chiefly advancement.  This particular ceremony involves both men and women and this is not that common in Vanuatu.

The building in the background is a Nakamal or meeting house.  It is built in the traditional style with a thatch roof made of Natangora leaves.  Almost all of the buildings in this village are constructed the same way. 

The smoke rising from the roof is from a fire inside.  The material is reasonably fire resistant and the smoke reduces bugs making the roof last longer.

The dancers lead you on a tour of the village.  The first stop is a cooking house where you may sample everyday cooking and watch their cooking methods.  No doubt these kitchens will soon be all the rage in Sydney and Auckland.

Local food is called "Aelan Kakae" (Island Food) in bislama, the national language.  It is primarily root crops like taro and yams with fruits and vegetables and, of course, coconuts.  The hunt for pigs and chickens that run wild in the bush.  Many people in Vanuatu are becoming more and more reliant on "white man food" like rice and tinned meat and this is causing a high rate of diabetes and other ailments.  The custom villages like Mavoonlefu have less of a problem with these diseases because they stick more closely to their traditional diet.

the traditional lifestyle also means that they are more self reliant when it comes to healthcare.

The village medicine man offers cures to many health problems using local medicines gathered from the bush or garden.  Many of these items are found in our pharmacies now but many are still the secret of the medicine man.

He made a special effort to show how he cures burns.  The relevance of this was not to be discovered until later in the evening.

The people of the village will seek western healthcare when they feel they need it but they make the choice and they usually choose their local medicine man.

 

 

After the village tour you are treated to a refreshment and sampling of various Aelan Kakae foods.  The highly regarded string band from the village performs.

String bands are the national music and competitions are held around Vanuatu to raise the level of performance.  This group is very good.

You are also offered Kava, the national beverage.  You may have had kava in Fiji or elsewhere but Vanuatu has the best Kava in the World.  You should definitely give it a try but don't have too much at one time.

The band plays until the sun goes down and then it is time for the main event.

The Mavoonlefu village is famous for their Fire Dance. 

This dance is used to celebrate a joyous event.  In this case, it marks their happiness that you came to visit them.

It is a dance for the men and boys only. 

It is not easy to describe so the best thing is to see it yourself.

Remember that you can book at your resort or hotel or contact the Nambawan Restaurant.

 

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