Melanesian People

The Diversity of Melanesian Culture

The area of the world referred to as Melanesia includes the Pacific Islands that lie in an arc beginning with New Guinea and extending in a southwesterly direction to Fiji. The culture of the native people inhabiting this area is a tremendously diverse one, and has been given the overarching title of “Melanesian Culture”.

Much like the diversity that exists in the various Pacific islands peoples of the Polynesian and Micronesian areas, the many elements of social, genetic, linguistic and cultural features among the Melanesian people are similar from island to island, but each group has developed a unique world and life view.

Melanesian people in their costumes at the Feast Night
Vanuatu islanders are mostly of Melanesian origin who respect their customs ('kastom'),
and like to share their cultural values with the visitors, including fondness for music and dance.

European Influence

For example, the people of the island nation Vanuatu have seen their cultural values shift and alter geographically throughout the island due to the settlement and influence of European peoples. The Melanesian people in the northern areas of Vanuatu determine wealth by the amount an individual can give away.

In the southern parts of the island nation a more Western method of determining social ranking and wealth is utilized, where grants of title and associated privileges are valued. The middle of the country sees the Melanesian culture adhering to more traditional standards, where livestock of a certain appearance determines wealth and rank, and traditional ceremonies are still performed.

Bislama Language

Melanesian woman
Melanesian woman from Mele village prepares a meal.

The language known as “Bislama” is the formal language of the native Melanesian people, as well as the most often spoken language in the nation. There are however approximately one hundred and ten native languages still used in Vanuatu.

The nation is considered to have the highest density of spoken languages in the world. Many of the native Melanesian people have also learned to speak both English and French to accommodate the fusion of their culture with Western cultures.

Kastom Singing

The Vanuatu people also preserve traditional Melanesian music, and it is a thriving cultural event in the country. The “kastom singing” and associated instruments, including drums, rattles and gongs are still relied upon for entertainment and occasionally performed for ritual communication. This music has also been transformed by its introduction into the Western world and today a popular music in the South Pacific is based on this earlier, more traditional format.

The Melanesian cultural factors will differ from island region to island region, and it is important that Melanesian people and their governments continue to foster and support efforts at preserving and educating visitors and residents about the native peoples and their cultures. To that end several islands have developed museums and historical societies aimed at preserving artifacts and histories of the native peoples.

 Articles about Vanuatu

Vanuatu woman

Backpacking Vanuatu - A quick guide to what you need for a great backpackers holiday in Vanuatu islands
Kava Kava Root - Learn about this popular Vanuatu root-based drink
Kava Tasting - Include it on your list of things to do in Vanuatu
Melanesian Culture - Gain insights and experience the local culture
Melanesian Feast Night - Popular feast and fun night for visitors

Melanesian People - Pacific Islanders influenced by European culture

Prepare Healthy Meals - Fresh food ideas for Port Vila family outings
Reasons to Visit Vanuatu - Seven reasons why you should visit Vanuatu

Resorts in Vanuatu - A sample of well-reputed resorts in Port Vila
Vacation in Vanuatu - Some of the best holiday resorts in Port Vila
Vanuatu Land Dive - Known locally as the Nagol, the land dive ceremony is held annually on Pentecost island to ensure a good yam harvest