Tanna, Vanuatu

From where Vanuatu Conquered the Western World

A native of Tanna descends a staircase towards one of the beaches in the vicinity of Port Resolution.
waiting for lava
Tanna residents and visitors await another eruption over the crater of the Yasur volcano.
lava explosion
A small Strombolian eruption illuminates the dark depths of Mount Yasur crater.
volcanic desolation
Sand and ash prevent the proliferation of tropical vegetation around the Yasur volcano, a small active volcano in Tanna.
Little underwater fishing
Two children try to catch fish caught at low tide on a wild beach in Tanna.
Nasiroro Fashion
Natives at the entrance to one of the huts in the village of Nasiroro.
pure melanesia
Inhabitants of Tanna during their homecoming from Bethel Market.
volcanic races
Tanna's children have fun descending the gentler slope of Mt. Yasur on slides made from coconut fronds.
bridge trunk
Dena Charlie crosses a makeshift bridge over a stream in Yakel.
Airada Life Trio
Young ni-vanuatu (inhabitants of Vanuatu) have fun on a beach in Tanna.
Chat on Nakamal
Yakel youth converse in the village's Nakamal (ceremonial wide).
at the door of the house
Woman and pigs outside one of Yakel's huts.
heavy load, easy smile
Yakel elder carries a pile of bamboo reeds.
The TV show “Meet the Native” took Tanna's tribal representatives to visit Britain and the USA Visiting their island, we realized why nothing excited them more than returning home.

The infrastructure is non-existent but the surrounding trees boast huge canopies that are in charge of blocking the tropical sun. In its shadow, Bethel's little market is ablaze with color.

The South Pacific winter announced itself just a few days ago. All over the island, tangerines are ready to be picked and are displayed as part of long artificial bunches that the natives arrange around stakes.

There are hardly any men in this makeshift trading post. And the long gaudy and floral dresses of the Melanesian matrons stand out from the verdant scenery and attract neighbors who also end up supplying themselves with taros, cassava, pineapples and huge grapefruits.

Bethel market, Tanna, Vanuatu to the West, Meet the Natives

Women sell fruit and vegetables at Bethel Market on the Tanna coast.

Jimmy Nasse has no shopping to do. He is eager to show off his favorite spots on the island and appears across the street to rescue us from the ethnic spell that holds us back long beyond the appointed time. “Come on friends, there is a lot to discover in Tanna.

If you get so caught up in the first place we stopped, it's going to be difficult to take you everywhere. And look, the roads don't help”.

We landed from Port Vila, island of ephath, two hours ago and the fascination for what we found is such that we continue to delay entering the small Tanna Lodge. On the way again, we pass by the mouth of a river and the black sand cove that welcomes it.

Children, Tanna, Vanuatu to the West, Meet the Natives

Young ni-vanuatu (inhabitants of Vanuatu) have fun on a beach in Tanna.

Some women bathe and wash clothes in the last meters of fresh water in the stream, and the contrast of the gaudy fabrics against the gray background of the ground and the blue of the ocean require us to take another slight detour.

Jimmy boosts your patience levels. Begins to get used to what awaits you.

Soon, he will confess his Bahai faith to us. We know the biggest temple of this religion, located in Haifa, Israel, and its principles of union of different beliefs, the search for justice and peace on Earth. We soon realize that we are in the hands of a kind of ni-vanuatu (natives of Vanuatu) angel.

We install and return to pick up in a few minutes. Jimmy leads us uphill towards the Yakel waterfall, along a muddy road that demands all the traction of the vehicle.

We pass through Nasiroro, a village formed by hundreds of huts and with a spiritual center in a large clearing sheltered by three majestic fig trees.

Nakamal, Tanna, Vanuatu to the West, Meet the Natives

Yakel youth converse in the village's Nakamal (ceremonial wide).

Discovering the Amazing Tanna, Guided by Dena Charlie

It is at this nakamal that we are greeted by Dena Charlie, the young host charged with introducing us to the village and revealing the way to the stream.

bridge trunk

Dena Charlie crosses a makeshift bridge over a stream in Yakel.

Pigs and dogs of the tribe cross the path that winds through the huts and trees, but ends up descending into a wide, green valley that looks like something straight out of an old science fiction book. Dena's English is at the level of the bislama native.

And the half-naked boy plays his role with impeccable ease. Meanwhile, the sun goes down. Dena hugs herself and complains about the cold that starts to bother him.

Dena Charlie, Tanna, Vanuatu to the West, Meet the Natives

Dena Charlie grabs a tree near the village of Yakel.

We wear t-shirts and stay warm. It gives us the feeling that the temperature has never dropped below twenty degrees, but other villagers are already wearing straw coats.

When we question Dena about the vulnerability of the natives to those temperatures, he justifies himself with elegance and good humor. “Yeah, we're different in so many things.

You must have already noticed the shape of our feet, right? Yours are much narrower and flatter, and many Westerners find ours amusing. Another distinction is in cold resistance. Here, at this temperature, we are all shivering.”

Nasiroro Fashion

Natives at the entrance to one of the huts in the village of Nasiroro.

Then, as part of tribal protocol, he takes us to the hut of the village chief Yakel.

Kauia is 111 years old and fought the Japanese invasion in World War II. As his age justifies it, we find him quite weakened, lying on a bamboo bed, subsumed in the smoky darkness inside the hut.

We exchange a few words but the boss is too weak and surprised. Dena reminds us that her life is one of the longest in Vanuatu, in all of Melanesia and, she is told, in the world.

He also tells us that Kauia was one of the leaders who led the formation of the Prince Philip myth.

The Enigmatic Faith of the Tanna People in British Royalty

For some reason, the Yahohnanen tribe began to believe that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and consort to Queen Elizabeth II was a divine being, the son of Keraperamun, the god of the highest mountain of Tanna.

volcanic desolation

Sand and ash prevent the proliferation of tropical vegetation around Yasur, a small active volcano in Tanna.

And also that he had once traveled to a distant land, married a powerful woman and would return. This idea was reinforced when the natives observed the reverence with which British colonial officials treated Queen Elizabeth II.

Later, in 1974, the royal couple visited the New Hebrides and the natives were able to observe Prince Philip who impressed them even more than in the images they had seen before.

The prince was not familiar with the cult but was informed of it by the resident commissioner who suggested that he send a photograph of himself upon his return to Britain. Philip followed the advice.

When the photo arrived, the villagers reciprocated by offering him a traditional stick. end-end. And the prince sent a new photograph of him wielding that staff.

meet the natives and the Natives' Relief for the Return to the Homeland of Vanuatu

These photographs were kept by Chief Jack Naiva and helped to prolong the service. So, in 2007, BBC Channel 4 created meet the natives a kind of reality show starring a group of natives belonging to the Prince Philip Movement visiting Great Britain.

His tour culminated in a meeting with the prince in which gifts were exchanged, including another photograph of Philip. It ended up revealing the undisguised happiness of the natives for returning to their beloved Tanna who welcomed them in celebration, even after they had seen their messiah and discovered the civilizational wonders of the West.

As we descend from Yakel to the waterfront, Dena Charlie and Jimmy Nasse add sordid details around the cults that contemplate disagreements between the tribes.

But we soon arrive at new unmissable places and they start transmitting us other information. We inspect the idyllic inlet of Port Resolution, where, in 1774, James Cook's eponymous ship anchored.

Airada Life Trio

Young ni-vanuatu (inhabitants of Vanuatu) have fun on a beach in Tanna.

We also pass by White Sands, a beach invaded by lush tropical vegetation, with large white sands where dozens of visibly happy children play and fish in their Melanesian paradise.

To the Rhythm of the Small Yasur Volcano

From there, we head to the Yasur mountain and volcano, the main volcanic expression of Tanna.

Jimmy Nasse leads us through small streams of water that he uses as a shortcut. Along the way, we see herds of wild horses roaming the tropical hay-lined plain, we pass women returning from the market and a group of men who have just sacrificed a cow.

Native and Cow, Tanna, Vanuatu to the West, Meet the Natives

Tanna's wife has the company of a curious cow.

At a certain point, we reach a high point that reveals the predominant forest expanse and the island of sand and ash opened there by the Yasur volcano.

Afterwards, we return to the plain and enter this desert-looking and inhospitable area decorated, here and there, by isolated exotic plants and shrubs.

volcanic races

Tanna's children have fun descending the gentler slope of Mount Yasur volcano on slides made of coconut leaves.

We approach the slope of Yasur and find kids who rejoice to show us their art of descending the slope, sitting on toboggans made of coconut tree trunks.

We go around that huge sandy ramp to reach the easiest access point to the crater, located at a mere 361 meters in altitude.

Halfway through this trail, we come across the emblematic mailbox of the Yasur volcano in which, even though we were a little afraid, we deposited dozens of postcards.

When we reach the top, the sun is about to set and the wind changes direction frequently. Sprays toxic gases on outsiders and natives around the summit.

waiting for lava

Inhabitants and visitors of Tanna, Vanuatu, await another eruption over the crater of the Yasur volcano.

The Toxic Crater and Mild Eruptions of Yasur Volcano

Sunset paints the clouds and scattered smoke orange and serves as an introduction to what is the most anticipated spectacle.

With twilight already installed, there is finally a first eruption that projects a profuse fountain of incandescent lava into the air.

As rashes from the Yasur volcano are Strombolian and almost regular.

lava explosion

A small Strombolian eruption illuminates the dark depths of the crater of the Yasur volcano in Tanna, Vanuatu

Aware of this fact, we wait for nightfall and the next, but Jimmy is already breathing with some difficulty, victim of an almost daily contact with the sulfur gas.

And we, deprived of really effective masks, also begin to experience some irritation of the eyes and bronchi. We agreed to descend to the safety of Sulfur Bay.

It had been a long day.

The next morning, a visit to the shrine of another of Tanna's intriguing messianic characters awaited us.

Waiting for John Frum and His "Position"

The New Hebrides were still jointly ruled by the French and the British when John Frum was first spoken of.

According to early testimony, a native named Manehivi, (though better known as John Frum) began to appear to the elders of the island. He wore a Western suit and said he would provide the natives with homes, clothing and means of transport.

One version of the myth portrayed this character as a spirit induced by the excessive consumption of kava, a traditional South Pacific sedative and numbing drink made from a plant, also drink, for example, in Fiji.

Another argued that it was a manifestation of Keraperaum.

Whatever it was, John Frum promised the dawn of a new era in which all whites, including missionaries, would abandon the New Hebrides and leave the Melanesians with access to the material wealth enjoyed by the colonists.

For this to happen, the people of Tanna would only have to reject all aspects of European society (money, education, Christianity, work on copra plantations, etc.) and return to principles kastom (traditional) of yours.

At the door, Tanna, Vanuatu to the West, Meet the Natives

Woman and pigs at the door of one of Yakel's huts

The Faith of the Ni-Vanuatu in Fulfilling John Frumiana's Professions

Around 1940, John Frum's followers began to dump his money. They left the missions, schools, villages and plantations. They moved inland, where they participated in feasts and other rituals.

European authorities sought to arrest the cult leaders and exile them to another island. That same year, 300.000 US troops arrived in the New Hebrides, prepared to recapture the Pacific from the Japanese and carrying enormous amounts of equipment and other goods that the locals simply called “cargo”.

With end of WWII, the Americans left and took with them most of this “treasure”. Dissatisfied, John Frum's followers built symbolic airstrips to encourage the planes to come back and bring them more “cargo”.

The cult also gave rise to a political movement that opposed the formation of the independent state of Vanuatu because it felt that a centralized government would only favor modernity in the West and the Christianity.

Heavy load

Yakel elder carries a pile of bamboo reeds.

The belief remains active. Chief Isaak Wan Nikiau – the leader – told the BBC: “John Frum is our god, our Jesus. One day he will return”.

The aspect of this mythological character is not, however, consensual.

Depending on the believer in question, it could be a ni-vanuatu, a white, or an American GI. In fact, for believers and other natives, it doesn't matter.

Until the prophecy is fulfilled, with or without the “charge” due, life will continue to flourish in Tanna.

Wala, Vanuatu

Cruise ship in Sight, the Fair Settles In

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A Saeraghi Young Singers Gala

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Pentecost Island, Vanuatu

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Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu

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Annapurna (circuit)
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Music Theater and Exhibition Hall, Tbilisi, Georgia
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Era Susi towed by dog, Oulanka, Finland
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MassKara Festival, Bacolod City, Philippines
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Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo, Japan
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shadow of success
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4th of July Fireworks-Seward, Alaska, United States
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Gothic couple

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North Island, New Zealand, Maori, Surfing time
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Ilhéu das Rolas, São Tomé and Príncipe, equator, inlet
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On the Crime and Punishment trail, St. Petersburg, Russia, Vladimirskaya
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Early morning on the lake

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autumn in the caucasus

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ala juumajarvi lake, oulanka national park, finland
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The Toy Train story
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Back to Danny Boyle's The Beach

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Train Fianarantsoa to Manakara, Malagasy TGV, locomotive
On Rails
Fianarantsoa-Manakara, Madagascar

On board the Malagasy TGV

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Sentosa Island, Singapore, Family on Sentosa Artificial Beach
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Singapore's Fun Island

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Women with long hair from Huang Luo, Guangxi, China
Daily life
Longsheng, China

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Jabula Beach, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa
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The Sounds, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
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