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The 2022 Nalawan Festival Is Launched


Media Release - Port Vila, 24 August 2022: The People of Southwest Bay in Malekula Island, gathered today on the picturesque beach of Lawa village, to welcome both international and domestic visitors, who have traveled afar to witness the launch of the two-days Nalawan Festival.

The cultural event kicked-off with a welcome greeting at the beach, drawn by the sound of the island string-band performance and three kastom dances — Nohonenguete (Octopus) Dance, Nawel (Red-head pigeon) Dance, Nohenenimbeangae (Water Taro) Dance.

The kastom dance took place in a ‘Nasara’ within two minutes’ walk from the South West Bay Guest House, overlooking the tropical rainforest landscape, carefully marked with ancestral pillars of long smooth and rough rocks - monuments placed by the Chiefs to commemorate past important events and crisis.

A pig-killing ceremony then ensued to celebrate the neighboring tribes that came to join and perform at the festival. A traditional ritual of marking the sacred stone with the blood of the pig also followed.

The Chairman of Malampa Tourism Council and at the same time, Chairman of South West Bay Tourism Association, Mr. Damien HOPHAND was the leading figure working with the Association and the Malampa Tourism Office based in Lakatoro to organize and host this year’s Nalawan Festival. The witness of the placement of the rock monument was commemorated alongside the presence of His Excellency the President of the Malampa Province, Mr. Aisek SAM ABEL.

“This rock is for future generations of the people of Southwest Bay to see and know that this rock marked the time when the first international tourists finally visited the South West Bay area after Covid-19 and to officially mark the end of Covid in the Nasara of Chief Loh Bangalow of Lawa Village”. says Chief Plas Kali during the inaugural ceremony.

Guests and visitors were later invited to share photos with the kastom dancers in their traditional and colorful attires. Visitors from all over the world have travelled to witness the occasion, as far as Sweden, France, Greece, Switzerland, New Zealand, USA and New Caledonia. Other local guests from Port-Vila and Lakatoro were also present.

A couple, Lynn SHREWSBURY and Andrew HALL traveled from New Zealand. They reported first-hearing about the Nalawan Festival through the ‘Sailing in New Caledonia, Vanuatu & Beyond’ social group, which was shared on social media by another event attendee, Karina from Greece.

“We just love music and dancing — especially the rhythmic music that you feel in your heart.” said the couple.

“We also heard a lot about Vanuatu and what attracted us is the people — we heard that the people are very nice and they are!” says Lynne.

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[Visitors of the day witnessing the first cultural performances]

At least ten yachts made the journey purposely for the Nalawan festival and were anchored in the bay; an exceptionally rare sight to witness. Yachties were seen sharing memorable moments with the natives, including buying locally-made handicraft from the vendors, in an effort to support community development. The daily event entry fee is 3,500vt per person.

Elder Kalmela ISNO from the nearby local village of Labo says “the Nalawan Festival 2022 is a big achievement for our communities, as the last event was last held in 2017 and it has been placed on hold since then”.

“The lack of knowledge surrounding the meaning of the festival itself, played a huge part in the stand-still. In terms of promotions and marketing the festival as a cultural event itself, we have had to work hard and overcome a number of challenges before we could successfully deliver it today” says Elder Kalmela.

“However, we know our points of difference and we will be using this to further promote the festival as a stand-alone event within the Malampa Province”, he said.

“Much of the new industry knowledge was gained through the branding and digital workshops organized by the Vanuatu Tourism Office, as part of the domestic tourism marketing campaign that began in 2020 under the banner of #sapotemlokolturism. Many training sessions later, thoughts and conversations around reviving this popular festival and other tours & activities, came about once again.” he continued.

The Malampa Tourism Council Chairman, Mr. Damien HOPHAND said during his acknowledgement speech to the Government officials present that “this is a start and I believe that in the next years, it will get better annually and bring positive change to the People of Southwest Bay.”

Representative of the Office of the Director General of the Ministry of Tourism, Trade, Industry, Commerce & Ni-Vanuatu Business, Jack Lowane says that, “events and activities like this are what we want to see grow our island destinations and provide that much needed income for our people”.

His Excellency the President of the Malampa Province, Mr. Aisek Sam Abel, thanked the organizing committee in his speech for extending the invitation to the Provincial Government and other delegations, who were present to open the two-day event.

“Today is a special day in Malampa Province. Post-covid-19, we must revive our programs to reach everywhere in Vanuatu,” he says.

“However, we seek the Government’s help to step-in and bring in the boats and cruise ships. The government has to come down to the area council and make sure that the development of tourism starts at the top until grassroot levels. We have already opened our borders, so we now must ensure that this program continues. These programs must be inside each individual business plan for every area council. Any decision taken within area councils will be taken to the local government and incorporated into our coming plans” he continues.

“After over two years, we have been waiting to hear that speech so we could stand up again and revive what was there before”, says the former tourism operator and event Master of Ceremony, Mr. George Thompson.

Day 2 of the Nalawan Festival will see Kastom expedition tours to some of the oldest Nasara’s or ‘meeting places’ followed on by lagoon or snorkeling tours to 10 stick islands.

“We are proud to revive the Nalawan Festival, in partnership with the South West Bay Tourism Association this year. Our culture and our people are reflected in our brand positioning and we are here to promote such events, that encourages authentic adventure experiences showcasing our custom, tradition and cultures of how diverse we are in our cultural product offering whilst at the same time bringing additional incomes to our local communities throughout the country. The first day of the launch of the Nalawan Festival has been a success, with visitors coming from around the world including within Vanuatu en travel to the island via yachts and plane to witness this moment. It’s a mystical experience too, so we invite you to create your favorite Vanuatu Moments that will last a lifetime about Vanuatu” says Adela Issachar ARU, Chief Executive Officer of the Vanuatu Tourism Office.

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[Visitors and guests enjoying locally made cuisine prepared by the Mamas from the village]