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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

New Caledonia: An Insider's Look at the Culture


One of the most fascinating aspects about New Caledonia is the culture, which combines an intriguing mix of traditions and customs derived from the original inhabitants who are known as the Kanak people, and who now share the island with European, Polynesian and South-East Asian people and contribute to the rich cultural heritage that is clearly evident when you visit the beautiful place.

Kanak culture
You can often find a cruise liner that incorporates a stop at New Caledonia by searching on a cruise comparison site for cruise lines such as Carnival for instance. You will be able to discover for yourself that Kanak culture is based on a combination of oral transmission, exchange, myths and animist legends, with traditions at the very heart of the culture that governs and dictates its social organization.

You will find that Kanak culture is indelibly stamped throughout most things that you see on the island and it is often expressed through numerous art forms.

Tribal membership
Each Kanak member is primarily a member of his particular tribe, which has a hierarchical system, where not only do elders have a prominent position with their society, but where individual ownership does not actually exist, as the land is deemed to belong to everyone and their law of covenants governs sharing.

They have a strong storytelling tradition which is still dominant in their society to this day, and the yam cultivation that goes on throughout the island is considered to bring the rhythm of life to the clan. Yam is also considered to be sacred, being used as a significant gift at major community celebrations and gatherings.

Wood carving
A major form of cultural expression for the Kanak people is wood carving, and you will see artwork created from the high-quality houp wood in the form of totem poles, masks and carved sculptures that often depict humans with an expressive face and a stylized body.

When you visit the island you will also encounter a number of other crafted objects and basketry is a skill practiced mainly by the women tribe members using the theme of objects used in everyday life.

Cultural mix

The descendants of pioneers are known as Broussards and they have successfully forged a mixed identity that paved the way for a lifestyle that is influenced by aspects from Australia, Melanesia and Europe.

You get a true sense of this cultural mix when you consider that depending on the date that you visit New Caledonia, you could be celebrating Chinese New Year with the Vietnamese community or marking the end of Ramadan with the Indonesian community, which all mixes in with activities from the Wallis and Futuna community.

Music
You will find that music is in the soul of Caledonians and they like to dance to rhythms and beats of music from many parts of the world, with a particular fondness for reggae, which is the inspiration behind the local musical style known as Kaneka.

Sport
The inspirational surroundings of sea, mountain and plenty of sunshine are major factors in making sport something that is deeply rooted within Caledonian society in general. Football is hugely popular, as is a local version of cricket, and Olympians representing New Caledonia take part in the Pacific Games every four years.

There is no question that when you pay a visit to New Caledonia you will experience a strong feeling of pride and cultural heritage amongst the inhabitants, making your stay truly memorable for so many reasons.

Ryan Posa's passion for travel is indulged as General Manager of Cruise Republic. When not criss-crossing the Pacific aboard cruise ships, he enjoys discovering the most exotic and beautiful destinations in the world. Follow Ryan's adventures on Twitter.

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