Prince of Wales meets kastom – a royal Vanuatu day to remember

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Prince of Wales meets kastom – a royal Vanuatu day to remember

By Dan McGarry in Port Vila

Meet Mal Menaringmanu, known to many as HRH Charles, Prince of Wales.

During his brief visit to Vanuatu on Saturday, Prince Charles was greeted by one of the most lavish displays of kastom seen on these shores, arguably since his mother Queen Elizabeth visited on the royal yacht in 1974.

Hundreds turned out to see the Prince as he arrived at the Chiefs’ Nakamal in Port Vila.

Accompanied by Malvatumauri president Chief Seni Mau Tirsupe and welcomed by dozens of high ranking chiefs, the Prince walked on red mats laid the length of the roadway from the gate to the entrance of the nakamal itself.

On arriving outside the nakamal, Prince Charles presented the president of the Malvatumaturi with gifts.

The gifts given in return by the chiefs of Vanuatu were quite literally priceless. Chiefly titles are not bestowed lightly, and carry obligation as well as honour. To bestow a title on even a royal prince is something to be done with care and consideration.


The prince was dressed in chiefly regalia before the ceremony could begin.

Kastom clothes
Pentecost Chief Viraleo, leader of the Turaga kastom movement, bedecked the Prince with ornately woven kastom clothes. Although these clothes are normally worn over bare skin, the Prince was allowed to retain his suit and tie.

A leaf of the local namele palm was placed in the back of the Prince’s attire. The namele leaf is accompanied by extremely strong tabu. It is a sign of chiefly authority, and is present on Vanuatu’s coat of arms and in various other official insignia.

The mere presence of a namele leaf in a doorway or gate, for example, is enough to bar anyone from passing unless they have chiefly authorisation.

The Prince was then led to the side of the nakamal, where he was presented with a nalnal, a customary club and sign of authority.

Under normal circumstances, a newly designated chief would be expected to use the club to kill at least one pig. Although pigs were present at the ceremony, their sacrifice was omitted in recognition of the Prince’s stance against animal cruelty.

Chief Tirsupe and the Prince then shared a coconut shell filled with kava, an intoxicating beverage made from a plant thought to have derived in Vanuatu. It is a popular drink throughout the Pacific islands, and is a necessary part of many kastom ceremonies.

Prince Charles then received the name of Mal Menaringmanu. The name was chosen to reflect his high rank in the world. The name is derived from three words:

Symbolising chiefly authority
refers to men in leadership position, it represents a bird, which symbolises chiefly authority.

“Manareng” or “Menareng” means a very high chief residing in the mountain of a king.

“Manu” means ‘people’.

Prince Charles as a Vanuatu high chief. Image: Dan McGarry/Vanuatu Daily Post

Taken together, the title, according to the Malvatumauri council of chiefs, is “more than just a high chief. It is a name that reflects authority that is wise and unwavering and whose roots are as old as the mountains, and whose mandate… stems from a higher existence….”

A nearly unprecedented gathering of high chiefs from across the country was present for the event, an honour extended only to few.

Once the ceremony was complete, the entire delegation accompanied the Prince in an exuberant, uproarious procession led by kastom dancers from Tanna and other islands.

The procession led the Prince down to nearby Saralana Park, where a crowd of thousands stood by to welcome the Prince.

His first words of greeting, spoken in Bislama, or Vanuatu pidgin, were met with a resounding roar from the crowd.

Celebratory dance
Meanwhile, a massive kastom dance was unfolding. An estimated 200 men and women from Tanna performed a celebratory dance in the field, while another group performed a kastom story immediately below the stage.

At the end of the dance, Prince Charles was presented with a gift from a chief from one of the Tanna communities that claims Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, as one of their own.

An honour guard of youth in kastom attire lined the front of the stage.

The Prince of Wales’ stay in Vanuatu was brief, but it was an occasion that will be remembered for some time to come.

The Prince Phillip followers achieved another coup before the day was done. In his final minutes before his departure, the Prince had a one-on-one encounter with JJ, who hails from Yakel village, at the heart of the Prince Philip community.

He passed on a message from the community to Charles’ father, and asked Charles to pass on a walking stick, to aid his return to Vanuatu some day.

Dan McGarry is media director of the Vanuatu Daily Post Group.

Prince Charles arriving at the Chiefs’ Nakamal in Port Vila. Image: Dan McGarry/Vanuatu Daily Post

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Daily Digest: Tanna filmmakers respond to exploitation claims

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Daily Digest: Tanna filmmakers respond to exploitation claims

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Comment from Vanuatu Daily Digest

Knee-jerk resentment of someone else’s success, as elsewhere, is sadly a feature of Vanuatu life, so the kind of comment seen below, prompted by the feature film Tanna‘s global success  — and now Oscar nomination, is not unexpected:

Thanks and good tumas blo save’ but my comments is, I think my people have been exploited and although the film is making its name to the top, how are these custom village people, the film actors, the island and the country been compensated for what they have to go through to produce this film including any protocol in this country? Can some one reply to this comments with some evidence?

Exploitation is a serious claim to make, however, so we are taking this opportunity to set the record straight.

Comment made to Vanuatu Daily Digest claiming exploitation by the filmmakers who made Tanna.

Protecting kastom mo kalja is taken very seriously in Vanuatu. The Vanuatu Cultural Centre — as the commentor may already know — has stringent protocols in place to prevent exploitation of communities.

Filmcrews must get prior approval to work in Vanuatu, are carefully monitored while working in the country, and must give a copy of their unedited footage to the Cultural Centre when they leave.

On Tanna, the Tafea Cultural Centre supervises all cultural protocols.

In the film Tanna‘s case, The filmmakers went a step further – they opened a kastom rod (a relationship built on mutual respect and kastom) between themselves, the chiefs and the community. This connection is arguably a major reason why audiences have responded so well to Tanna – the genuine, heartfelt connection between the filmmakers, the cast and the community is apparent.

Vanuatu Daily Digest reached out to the filmmakers for clarification, and Janita Suter, wife of co-director Bentley Dean and location producer for the film had this to say:

“The film was only possible through the auspices of the Vanuatu Culture Centre at a national and local level, who insist and ensure that all people involved in the productions of films in Vanuatu are dealt with fairly and respectfully — including representation and payment during production (both traditional and financial).

Bentley Dean, Marie Wawa and Mungau Dain filming Tanna in a scene on the brink of Mount Yasur volcano. Image: Tanna

“Beyond this The Vanuatu Culture Centre and community of Yakel are in charge of DVD sales for all of Vanuatu, including how the film is distributed and profits. Our aim is that people should continue to benefit from their cultural output.

“We’re regularly in contact with the community, in fact one was recently staying with us! The film continues to give back to the community and the chiefs have been happy with this arrangement right from the beginning. The chiefs maintain there is a strong kastom road between us.

“It is good to clarify this sort of commentary. There were very deliberate safeguards to ensure no ‘exploitation’ occurred and that the correct ‘monetary compensation’ was made for those involved in the film. This was all arranged through the official relevant Vanuatu institutions described above, as is the correct process for filming in Vanuatu, as well as the traditional chiefs of the villages involved.

“If people have queries on this they can speak with the chiefs of Yakel or Jacob Kapere from the Cultural Centre, or the cultural director of Tanna, JJ Nako (if you can find him!).”