The Havannah Vanuatu
Imagine being able to see, hear and feel a true story so wonderful, they made the whole experience into a Unesco World Heritage site. Plus, in contrast to sites that only contain inert artifacts revealed by excavation, these memories of the last paramount chief are still vibrant in the minds of our local community. It’s these memories that bind our local community (including our staff) to each other and to this locality. And, where can you experience this? Well, it’s right on the doorstep of The Havannah Vanuatu.
Chief Roi Mata’s Domain is the first, and to date, only site to be inscribed as a Unesco World Heritage site in Vanuatu. It is an outstanding example of Pacific chiefly systems consisting of three early 17th century AD sites on the islands of Efate, Lelepa and Artok that are associated with the life and death of the last paramount chief, or Roi Mata.
A short and lovely boat ride away from The Havannah Vanuatu brings you to Mangas village where Chief Roi Mata lived. Here is where you can learn about the traditions and daily life schedules surrounding this wonderful chief.
Oral, traditional stories tell that Chief Roi Mata was a good man who brought the people of the area together. He taught them how to live together in harmony. The site reflects the coming together of oral traditions and archaeology checks that back up and bear witness to the persistence of Roi Mata’s social reforms and conflict resolution which is still relevant to the peoples of the region. The Mangasi pottery found in this area has clearly marked the period in time.
On our tour, which is hosted by Kathy, you can learn about the way chiefs derive their authority from previous title holders and how the “tabu” prohibitions on the use of Roi Mata’s residence and burial site have been observed for 400 years. They continue to structure the local landscape and social practices.
The Naflak System
Chief Roi Mata introduced the “naflak” (a form of kinship reckoning) systems for the inhabitants of this area which are still in use today. Individuals assume inclusion in the “naflak” to which their mother belongs. Roi Mata called together all of the warring parties and communities of Efate and is said to have presented each community with a totemic symbol of their identity. Examples of this are a crab or a coconut, and he encouraged them not to wage war against members of the same “naflak” or matriline.
This provided people with allegiances that extended beyond the confines of their immediate settlements and their more narrow existing social groups. It is widely credited with ending the long era of island-wide conflict known as the Great Efate War.
When you return to the resort, you could ask one of our team if they wouldn’t mind telling you to which “naflak” they belong. It is this vivid consciousness of the past, generously shared with those from elsewhere, that makes this tour a rare and distinctive experience.
After visiting Mangas, the tour heads over to Fels Cave where it is believed Roi Mata died. Fels Cave is an amazing site and there have been drawings in the cave that have been carbon-dated back thousands of years.
After the cave visit, there’s time to meet some of the villagers, see the ladies woven articles and watch them weave some baskets or place mats.
Morning tea is served (provided by The Havannah Vanuatu) on the shoreline from where you can alos see Hat Island, which is where this Roi Mata is buried along with 50 plus other persons in a revered mass burial site.
The Havannah Vanuatu is very proud of its close association with the custodians of the World Heritage listed Chief Roi Mata Domain.
Since 2008, when this historic cultural area was listed as a World Heritage Site, its traditional custodians have found the financial sustainability of the site challenging. The owners of The Havannah Vanuatu recognized the opportunity to provide its guests with a unique cultural experience while at the same time assisting the traditional custodians to establish a sustainable financial model for the site’s administration.
100% of all proceeds generated by the Chief Roi Mata Domain tour for The Havannah Vanuatu guests goes directly to the traditional custodians. 10-20 guests on average per week undertake the tour, thus ensuring a regular income for these custodians, while at the same time providing an audience to which the unique Chief Roi Mata story can be told in an authentic way.
The Chief Roi Mata Tour provides a wonderful insight into the cultural heritage of the whole area and at The Havannah Vanuatu, we are proud of the fact that we have become a conduit to assist with the cultural sustainability of this World Heritage site in a significant way.
The Havannah Vanuatu
The Havannah Vanuatu is committed to sustainable practices and to protecting natural and cultural heritage. It prides itself on providing an authentic, enriching, intimate and exceptional experience, inspiring guests to connect with their destination in a meaningful way and to play a part in safe-guarding it for the future. The Havannah Vanuatu is a member of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World.
For more information on bookings this tour during your stay at The Havannah Vanuatu, email firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to welcoming you to The Havannah Vanuatu very soon… but in the meantime….