Traditional Items



These are slit drums, typically about the size of a man with heads carved onto them and with a slit at the bttom. They make a hollow sort of noise when you hit them. They are symbolic of many things and are still used in many ceremonies today. The one pictured here is a miniature version, but showing atypicsl style of design. Tam-tams was used many times during an important ceremony. With X to represent a large hit and x a small hit, a typical rhythm would be X (pause) X (pause) X (pause) xxxxxxxxxx (pause) X (pause) X (pause) X at key points in the ceremony.

Magic stones

The export of them is prohibited. Various magic stones have various powers, including success in love, the bringing of misfortune to your enemies and one intriguing one which "attracts money". Normally, when they are not being used, their power is restricted by them being wrapped up in a special covering, which is a thick mat of cobwebs.

Pig tusks

If a pig has its top teeth knocked out, the bottom ones will grow round into a curved tusk, such as is found on the nation's flag. These are highly prized as symbols of wealth, even today, because they show that the owner can afford them. As creatures they are useless, but they must be fed by hand because without matching teeth they cannot eat by themselves. They are frequently tied up so that they don't break the valuable tusks. A double circle tusk is even more valuable, and a triple tusk will have a high price attached just for looking at it. For a single tusk of almost a circular shape, you'd be looking at paying around 20,000 vatu = US $ 200 if you wanted to buy one in Port Vila. Pork is only eaten, generally, at festival times; gifts of pigs and mats are very much prized by Melanesians, which leads onto...


Mats, woven from pandanus leaves are a part of everyday life in Vanuatu, being used to sit on and sleep on. They are also very special gifts. They are often presented in large quantities at weddings and other important ceremonies as a symbol of wealth. Mat


An intoxicating beverage made from the root of the pepper plant (piper methysticum). There are many different kava plants, with many different medicinal and intoxicating products, still being investigated by scientists in the West. Kava is not alcoholic at all and tastes like muddy ditchwater. Kava is almost always present at any sort of ceremony: opening of a building, a parliament etc. In many parts of Vanuatu the custom of drinking kava is limited to men, and in more Kastom oriented areas women are not permitted to be present at kava ceremonies. Some of the nakamals in Port Vila do welcome women and are happy to serve them kava.