The celebration at Southwest Bay was a must see on the cruiser calendar in Vanuatu in September. We didn't make it but our friends Bruce and Pam on Aquhabi were there and Pam shared her pictures and brought us up to date on the festivities. These pictures were taken by Pam Dage and are displayed here with her permission.
The ceremonial Nasara was decorated to the hilt for this very important celebration. The purpose of this event was to mark the raising in rank of the members of the village. Men and women are considered but mostly the men progress through ranks beginning as a boy and continuing until the status of chief. There are usually more than one chief in a village.
The event was filmed by a documentary crew and cruisers were also invited to watch.
Various dances were performed and a variety of rank presentations were practiced. The final rank presentation for the most senior men raising in rank was the ceremonial killing of a pig. This was a very difficult event to watch and many of the cruisers left. The killing of Tusker pigs is a common ceremonial practice in Vanuatu but in most villages the killing is done with a blow to the head with a special club. This method is relatively quick and painless.
In Southwest Bay they kill the pig with bow and arrow. Each man fires an arrow into the pig and it is not a quick death. The pig squeals very loud and the squeals become more pathetic as the pig succumbs.
It was very difficult to watch for many of the cruisers with some becoming light headed. I know I wouldn't have handled it well. I don't judge there ways though because I feel it is important that they retain their culture.
A tusker pig is a special pig that has been raised for its tusks. The tusks are formed by removing the top teeth which then allows the bottom teeth to grow without restraint. These pigs are usually killed in a ceremony and the tusks are retained for ceremonial dress. You can see the tusks on the arms of archer left.
These pigs have a good life until their time comes. I don't think I will be anxious to become a chief in Southwest Bay. Jay on Skywave became a chief in a village in Lolton on Pentecost. He had been working with the village on education and helping them build a school so they decided to make him a chief. He had to club a pig but, though normally a gentle person, he found it invigorating when viewed in the context of the whole ceremony and he had no regrets. This is why I feel it is important not to judge cultures by western norms.