Friday, October 12, 2012

Kastom Dancing

The village of Lutes on the island of Lukienuen has been a gracious host to our flotilla of boats that has now grown to six. As we were sailing from Epi Island, David on Riada II caught a 250-pound marlin and towed it all the way into the anchorage as it was too heavy for them to hoist aboard their Davidson 46. That afternoon, they towed it into the village and it appeared that everyone turned out to watch the massive fish being cut up and divided amongst everyone. We were told that they had never seen a fish that big.

The next day we were given a tour of the island, one more time hiking through a thick tropical jungle. As we continue north, the temperature and humidity increase, taking just minutes for me to be completely soaked in sweat. Our tour culminated in a ride through the mangroves where narrow channels through the brush and trees provide just enough room for the dinghies, sometimes with the outboard tilted up.

After a brief respite aboard our respective boats, we went back to shore and assembled near some bungalows which were built in hopes of attracting tourists (my take is that it would require unusual tourists as the conditions and amenities are extremely rustic - no water or electricity and I doubt you'd find a mint on your pillow at night - much more likely you'd find some enormous, indescribable insect on it). We were lead through a grove of coconut palms and then along a narrow path to a small clearing in the bush. A man wearing a small namba (a woven penis sheath) held on by a thin woven string, his face blackened from burnt coconut shells, came out and greeted us. "You are welcome to watch our dancing," he said with a grin and dashed back into the bush. Moments later, the rhythmic sounds of wood against wood and rattles shaking could be heard from where the man had just disappeared and soon a procession of about 20 men, dancing and singing, wound their way into the clearing. It wasn't precisely choreographed but the movements for most of the men were similar although some appeared to be 'dancing to a different drummer'. Their costumes were varied but all wore the small namba - some had head dresses with leaves in them and some had leaves tucked into the string that held on their namba. One of the oldest men wore a necklace of yellow palm fronds, which was set off by his white hair and beard. They did several dances for us, none of them lasting more than a couple of minutes. Once the performance was over, the men ducked back into the bush and returned wearing their everyday shorts and t-shirts. They shook hands all around, us saying "Sipa!" ('thank you' in the local dialect) and them replying with "Evoy!" (which you also use as 'hello'). Bill on Dilligaf had taken video of the entire dancing and played it back for the men on the camera's small screen. They whooped and hollered as they saw themselves on the screen for what I believe may have been the first time for most of them to see their moving images captured.

We returned to the area of the bungalows where a table had been set up with coconuts and fresh mangos, both of which were delicious and refreshing. From there, the entire group walked across the island to the village's nakamal and had a bowl of kava, 100 vatu (about US$1.00) for a huge bowl. It was strong kava but still tasted awful and I had to drink mine with several stops instead of 'chugging' it as is the traditional way. Face it, I'm not very good at drinking kava.

Dinner that night was on board Riada II where David and Carolyn served up huge portions of the marlin they had caught. The sky is very clear and the stars brilliant.
At 10/12/2012 9:24 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 16°32.41'S 167°50.20'E

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