MALEKULA is the most culturally and linguistically diverse islands in Vanuatu. Shaped like a dog and sitting right in the heart of the archipelago it's Vanuatu's second largest island.
THERE are over thirty different languages spoken on the island but what really typifies MALEKULA are the ancient tribes which used to live up in the hills: the Big Nambas in the North and the Small Nambas in the central part of the southern area. The names Big Nambas and Small Nambas relate to the size of the penis sheath (nambas) traditionally worn by men. These are made out of banana or pandanus leaves.
Historically, in Smol Nambas villages, men would sleep in one house know as the “amel”, while women and children would sleep together in a separate house. It was the Smol Nambas in the Southwest who introduced the practice of elongating the heads of their young children - a custom unique to this area of Vanuatu. Only a handful of elderly survivors of this customary practice still remain.
In ancient Big Nambas tribes it was standard practice for a village chief to have several wives, a traditional which continues in some tribes today. Warfare between tribes was very common and would flare up at the least provocation. Usually these fights would cease after killing three or four opponents. To celebrate, the victors would finishing off with a feast - often their victims featured on the menu. Today many visitors are intrigued by MALEKULA’S history of cannibalism. There are many ancient cannibal sites still hidden in the bush.
The interior of MALEKULA is mountainous, rugged and forest-covered with good hiking and bird watching. Custom (kastom) is still a very important part of daily life in MALEKULA. Traditional dance, songs, and ceremonies such as circumcision and grade-taking continue in contemporary life. Malekulans are exceptionally proud of their cultural heritage and eager to share.
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