69 imagesRah and Mota Lava are two small, remote islands that belong to the Banks Islands group of the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. Their isolation from the rest of the world and the pristine, resource-abundant surrounding natural environment have led to the emergence of a unique culture and lifestyle. The islanders rely primarily on subsistence living. Gardens, forests and the sea are the main sources of food. In order to eat, one has to be a skillful gardener, hunter or fisherman, the skills are picked up from a young age, through children watching and helping their parents. Despite its remoteness and tiny size, Rah Island is famed for its exuberant snake-dance, inspired by the black and white colored sea-snakes, which reside under large rocks off of the island's shore. The performers travel as far as Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu to demonstrate the dance at various cultural festivals.
45 imagesSouth West Bay is a remote enclave on the island of Malekula, Vanuatu. It is separated from the rest of the island by mountains and dense forest. The only way to get there is by sea or air. Until as late as the 1960s the 'Smol Nambas' tribes living in South West Bay and the rest of Southern Malekula engaged in cannibalism and tribal warfare. The rise of Christianity resulted in the extinction of warfare and cannibalism, but it has also led to the disappearance of local cultures and customs around most of Southern Malekula. South West Bay is one of the last strongholds of the 'Smol Namba' culture. Here the locals embrace the religion brought to them by European missionaries alongside of their age old customs and rituals. Some of the more prominent chiefs of South West Bay have been the keepers of their ancient culture and even today they are just as likely to partake in the traditional grade-taking ceremony, which involves the sacrifice of a pig and provision of food for their village to feast on, as they are to attend the Sunday Church service.
45 imagesUlleveo, also known as Maskelyne Island is the most populated of the small Maskelyne Islands group off of Malekula, Vanuatu. For over one hundred years it has been home to one of the most skillful fishing communities in the region. Fishing on the Maskelynes is done around the abundant reefs which surround the islands. Men and occasionally women employ fishing techniques that include the use of nets, locally made spear guns as well as a combination of the two. The equipment is very basic and fishermen often need to rely on their physical prowess to be successful. Most are strong free divers with the ability to hold their breath underwater for minutes at a time. Little has changed on Maskelyne Island over the past fifty years and while modernization is creeping in, it is doing so slowly. The island remains without electricity, running water and other modern-day commodities. Life revolves around the community, church, kava drinking and occasional festivals that celebrate special occasions.