Celebrations on the Island of Tanna: Lens-Artists Challenge


© irene waters 2018

There are three main celebrations on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu. All will see women with brightly painted faces. Tinsel has replaced wreaths of leaves for most women.

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© irene waters 2018

Kastom (traditional) dancing is always performed both by the coast

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© irene waters 2018

and in the highlands.


© irene waters 2018

The John Frum Cargo Cult holds its celebration in February each year with marching troops, entertainment and kastom dancing.

circumscision 8

© irene waters 2018

When the boys return from the bush after being circumcised there is much rejoicing and celebrations.

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© irene waters 2018

And western cakes are brought out by the children to celebrate a birthday.

Most of these celebrations were mentioned in the Australian Way in 1994.


© QANTAS 1994


© QANTAS 1994


© QANTAS 1994

where the second last paragraph on the above page says ” It is also evident now in colourful singing and Friday-night dancing celebrations. Today the followers serenade each other. A shyish group of Jon Frum musicians sing and dance for guests at the small, Melanesian-style White Grass Resort, co-owned by Roger and Irene Waters and Chief Namake, and, in the darkness outside, villagers congregate for their own impromptu celebrations. Everyone shares the music.


© QANTAS 1994

These celebrations and more are the subject of the memoir Nightmare in Paradise which was released in December – I am still celebrating this achievement.


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© irene waters 2018

Thank you to Amy for this week’s prompt

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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21 Responses to Celebrations on the Island of Tanna: Lens-Artists Challenge

  1. ksbeth says:

    what amazing celebrations –

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amy says:

    How fascinating! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tina Schell says:

    Congrats Irene. What an amazing journey

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amazing to see images of this ancient culture which will likely change dramatically over the next 20 years or so. The island may become more like Hawaii with “traditional” rituals performed for tourist dollars, the actual culture drifting away. I noted the tinsel wreath even before reading your comment about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It has changed in the time we have been away Sharon. No longer do custom villages dress traditionally, although I’m sure some of the remote ones still do but I doubt that the wearing of clothes and performing custom dances for money will change the deep rooted belief system and the witchdoctors and chiefs will still control village life with just as much magic and mayhem as in the past.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. pattimoed says:

    Hi, Irene. Amazing! How long did you run the resort? I can only imagine how much work that was!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Roll on the arrival of your book, Irene…cannot wait!!!!!! ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Charli Mills says:

    Lots of celebrating, and sharing of those from times past.

    Liked by 1 person

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