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Nourishing gardens facing catastrophe

Abstract : On Tanna Island, Vanuatu (in Lamlu, a central bush village), a "disaster" is measured and defined only according to the damage caused to the crops. Subsistence horticulture has always been central to this community, and the gardens where this is practiced are crucial for the local people. Their balance however can be disrupted, or altogether wiped out, by frequent cyclical and life-threatening events (cyclones, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, acid rains, etc.), which can jeopardize farming. To ensure prosperity and fertility within the gardens, agricultural magicians, called tupunus, act in very specific ways and at very specific times under the authority of customary hierarchy . In order to protect these places, the tupunus supervise the tubers from germination to harvest; they play a major role, and without their assistance, nothing would grow. When carried out efficiently, ceremonies such as Niel or Toka are held: large quantities of food are exchanged, and many pigs are slaughtered - a reminder of the tribal wars during which alliances between clans were formed and maintained. These ceremonies also protect the gardens from black magic. In this paper I will present and analyse these operational sequences: practical agricultural, exchanges and magic.
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Contributor : Maëlle Calandra <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - 12:53:04 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, July 16, 2020 - 10:53:29 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-00903341, version 1



Maëlle Calandra. Nourishing gardens facing catastrophe. Feast and Famine: Exploring Relationships with Food in the Pacific, PIRN Inaugural Conference (University College London (UCL), Pacific Islands Research Network, Sep 2012, Londres, United Kingdom. ⟨halshs-00903341⟩



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