Mereana Mills is a Tourism Business Adviser with the Department of Tourism, Vanuatu. Here she shares with us the beautiful kastom (traditional) Ni-Vanuatu dress.
VSA Volunteer Howard Iseli receives a welcome drink (coconut) from the beautiful young ladies of Vanue Kastom village in Ambae. Howard and the other VSA tourism volunteers were on a site visit to experience tourism activities.
The girls’ kastom dress is the traditional red mat used as clothing. The red mat is particular to the Penama province and is still considered a valuable commodity and currency - for example, it is used as a bride’s dowry or in exchange for other goods such as vegetables and pigs.
The kastom dress of Shefa province is traditionally made of green banana leaves, but a more modern design is plain woven pandanas leaf. I think the wee pikinini’s top is a modern addition to traditional dress for tourism purposes.
Tanna has a delightful approach to kastom dress and dance. (Left) The bright colours of Tanna kastom dress is often used in Vanuatu promotional images as a point of difference. The skirts are made of natural fibres, usually pandanas leaves or thinly stripped tree bark. (Right) These young girls were waiting to perform their kastom dance at the launch of the new Le Lagon Taxi Association in Port Vila.
This was taken during a site visit to a Tanna kastom dance. The entire community went to so much trouble for the occasion with elaborate face painting, Christmas tinsel headbands and dyed village fowl feathers for decorated headpieces.
NZ Aid has assisted the Malampa Tourism Office to establish a call centre so that tourists can book visits directly. In celebration of the initiative VSA volunteer Howard Iseli organised for the Small Nambas from Malekula to perform at the launch of the call centre and the 10th anniversary of Toktok Vanuatu, the annual tourism trade show.
More modern dress is the aelan (island) dress, also known as a Mother Hubbard dress. This is still commonly worn across Vanuatu.
An aelan dress is often given as a gift or for a special occasion. This is me in a dress I received from my Ni-Vanuatu host family - the first of many aelan dresses.
July 30th is Independence Day in Vanuatu. There is a week of celebrations including special activities organised by VANWODS, an NGO that supports women in microfinance. One annual event is the highly competitive aelan dress competition. Here are the finalists on stage before the winner was announced.
Each finalist was asked to explain the inspiration for their dress. (Left) A very popular choice with a dress made in the colours of the Vanuatu flag. (Right) The winner of the day was this creative outfit, including hat.
Overseas EU delegates to Vanuatu were given aelan dresses in recognition of their support for a provincial government project. The delegates were in Vanuatu as part of the ACP/EU conference held in Vanuatu in June.