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Tanna is fascinating with the local culture largely unaffected by the western way of life. To experience the traditional Tannese culture, there are day tours to local villages as well as custom ceremonies throughout the year like the renowned Nekowiar or Toka ceremony. There are also cult tribes to learn about including the Prince Philip cult and the John Frum’s cargo cult.

tanna yakel village JP Niptik

John Frum

Every year on February 15th, natives of Tanna Island in the Republic of Vanuatu hold a grand celebration in honour of an imaginary man named John Frum. Villagers clothe themselves in homemade US Army britches, paint “USA” on their bare chests and backs, and run a replica of Old Glory up the flagpole alongside the Marine Corps Emblem and the state flag of Georgia. Barefoot soldiers then march in perfect step in the shadow of Yasur, the island’s active volcano, with red-tipped bamboo “rifles” slung over their shoulders. February 15th is known as John Frum day on Tanna Island, and these activities are the islander’s holiest religious services.

Nekowiar Ceremony

One of Vanuatu’s most spectacular cultural events that bring together neighbouring villages of gift-giving ceremonies, custom dances and feasting. The Toka Festival of Tanna is a solidarity-building event that takes place every 3 to 4 years when the paramount chief deems conditions favourable. Tribes from all over Tanna meet to feast and dance. Women paint their faces with brilliant designs and hundreds of them dance an entire day of the 3-day festival. The men’s Toka Ceremony is considered the most impressive traditional dance.

tanna yakel village JP Niptik-2

Niel Ceremony

Niel refers to the pile of heaps of gifts that are brought to the Nakamal by a tribe and is exchanged by another tribe with another heap of gifts. And it occurs regularly on the island of Tanna during custom ceremonies.