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MALEKULA, VANUATU: - They will love your white skin, our man says, smilingly, showing off his long, yellow teeth and looking at us with blood-shot eyes. We are on our way to the island of Malekula in the Vanuatu-archipelago, to look for the last cannibal.
Underveis amongst cannibals
At the small, local freighter “Kijanga”, originally a fishing vessel remade, sailing with tourists on board is no everyday matter. Especially not white tourists. They tend to stay in the populated areas and only move around on big charter boats, with all facilities on board. We want to see something more, something off the beaten track, and intend to try to get under the skin of the local Ni-Vanuatus, who are famous for their cannibalism, but also for their great hospitality and friendliness towards strangers. Therefore, we are spending the night on an old, rusty deck hatch under open sky, whilst our boat “Underveis, is safely berthed in the sailclub in the capital Port Vila.

The friendly people
As we arrive outside the village of Malfakal on the southern shores of Malekula, we ask the captain to take us ashore. The crew hesitate and exchange looks. Here? But there is nothing here! No jetty, no hotels or bars. The village, with its population of 200, in many ways live the same life they lived 4,000 years ago. There are no roads, cars, nothing.
- Perfect, we exclaim, eager to get ashore and make new friends. As we wade ashore, 40 plus people sit around in the shadow of the trees, watching us with big smiles, wondering who on earth we might be. Anthropologists or missionaries? Some little children start weeping and run to their mothers. They have never seen white people before. “Ambat”, is the word for fair skinned people here. And there are only two of us. Nearest village sporting telephone and electricity is four hours quick march through dense and wild jungle.

FERTILE: The Vanuatu-archipelago is incredibly fertile and beautiful. In the village of Malfakal, people still live like they did thousands of years ago, in houses that are specially designed for the hot, humid climate.


# Vanuatu is an independent republic. The currency is Vatu. Vanuatu comprises around 80 islands northeast of Australia, with a total landmass of around 12,200 square kilometers. Many of the islands are tall and volcanic, but there are also lowlying coral islands and atolls.

# Roughly 180,000 people live in Vanuatu, and the following groups are represented: Melanesian: 94 %, French 4 %, Chinese, Vietnamese and Micronesian. Around 84% of the population are Christian,s Catholic and various Protestants. Still, a lot of traditional religion is found, also among the Christians.

# French, English and bislama are official languages. Bislama, the local version of pidgin- English, is spoken by more than 80% of the population. There are 120 local languages, and innumerable dialects.

# One assumes that the islands were populated around 5,000 years BC, by Melanesians coming from the northwest. The first European explorer to wade ashore on the islands was the Portuguese Pedro de Queiros in 1606.

# Main export articles are copra, timber, cocoa, coffee, fish and meats. Tourism is increasing rapidly, but there are still ATMs to be found in a very few locations. Communications are lacking, and based on local freight vessels going back and forth now and then.

(Sources:, CIA,

OUR MANGO TREE: The village mangotree gave shadow during the most intense hours during midday,and we spent many an hour there. Here are some of the children, who climbed about and looked at us.This tree will easily be 3-400 years old.
NO JETTY: What awoke our curiosity, was the fact that Malfakal doesnt have a jetty or any landing at all. Kijanga just ferried us ashore, and we waded ashore with our rucksacks on our backs.
MARK: Mark is one of the leaders of the small congregation,and took good care of us while we were there. Here with the youngest girl on his arm.
SCARS: When Mark was nine months old, he was almost killed by his own mother. He survived, but is marked for life.
UNITY: In Malfakal people do most things together.Not at least enjoying a good meal.
SERVICE: Most of the villagers show up for service. It is only 20-30 years since Malfakal was first Christened.
Cairns, Australia, 28.04.2009
KAVA: The kava is grinded.
MATANOI: The river Matanoi runs past the village, and we cooled off there almost every day.
LUNCH: This would be a typical lunch. Bananas and fruits, all decorated with lovely flowers.
THE HOLE: Into this hole was disposed of skin, hair and bones after the cannibal feasts, to hide the traces for the neighbouring tribes.
NAKAMAL: The chief Eric showes us the place where his forefathers sacrified humans, and also lived.

Some of the youngsters run forward and carry our backpacks up the steep hill from the sea to the village. All the houses are made from palm leaves, even though the presence of a church and a school reminds us that the missionaries and socalled civilization are closing in and placing an ever firmer grip, also in this remote place. It has only been 20-30 years since the villagers were Christianed, and local tradition is still strong among the people here, with jungle spirits and supernatural forces still playing major parts in peoples everyday life. As we are about to find out during our week and a half in Malfakal, their hospitality knows now boundaries. We are given our own hut, three delicious meals a day, and are shown around the village and the premises, free to go wherever we want. The local food favourite is “laplap”, a pudding made from roots and bananaleaves. Laplap with meat, fish or shellfish. It doesn’t matter. It all tastes wonderful. And fruits literally fall down on us from the trees.

But we are here looking for cannibals. The last official human sacrifice that took place here, happened as late as in 1967. Today, cannibalism is a shameful thing here, and everybody claim that the times when people were eating people are over. We ask around, and they tell us that also in Malfakal, cannibalism was practiced up until the 1960s or 1970s.
- The best pieces were the head, the thighs and the buttocks, chief Daussie explains to us. His parents took part in man eating ceremonies, but he assures us that he never participated in any such activity.
- But the people living in the next village, around the bend you see over there, they were eating people all the time, he claims and points his finger. Usually, people from neighbouring tribes would be killed and eaten in a seemingly endless circle of revenge and counter-revenge. Neither children nor women were spared, and every tribe held a close guard. Nobody were allowed to leave the village without a guard.
- But why did you eat missionaries and white people? What had they done to you?
- That was pure vengeance for the white slave traders that came here first and kidnapped our boys and menfolk by the hundreds. When the missionaries then turned up later on, they were usually killed off and eaten immediately. As an example, an old man tells us of his father that was kidnapped by Australian so-called blackbirders as late as in 1922.
- We didn’t see him again for ten years, he exclaims angrily.

TAKING A BATH: When the temperature hits 35 degrees centigrade and more, a river to cool off in is very nice. For the boys from Malfakal, our shampoo was a new and exciting experience.
REMEMBERS: The chief Daussie from Bonvor remembers that his parents participated in maneating feasts.

Later on, another chief, Eric, shows us the place where they would dispose of the bones and skins after their cannibal feasts, and the place where they cooked their victims. The place is called “nakamal”, a place that is taboo for people who have not been formally allowed to enter it. We are not, of course, but when we are going there with the chief, we are safe from the spirits that guard the nakamal. The recipe for cooking someone, was simple. After the victim had been clubbed to death, arms and legs were cut up in pieces, and everything put in an earth oven furnished with palm- r bananaleaves. There, the meat was cooked until it was done. With bones, skin and hair.
- This place has been used by my ancestors for sacrificing humans from time immemorial, Eric says, and shows us stone walls so old that no one knows who built them. Very few people from outside the village have seen this place before us, and we feel both privileged and disgusted at the sight, and at the thought of what must have taken place here, up until for just a few decades ago.

In the evenings, my travel companion Finn Olav, organizes shows with spewing flames and juggling burning sticks. All the children, and all the village, gathers to watch in awe. We listen to them telling the century-old stories of their culture, and we tell them some of our old Norse and Viking stories. It is customary to exchange presents in the Pacific. We give them a large bag of fishing equipment, writing books for the children, an old knife, a torch and many other things. When you own few items on this earth, you learn to appreciate what you have, and even our plastic water bottles with sportscaps, are well received as gifts. After a week and a half among once-was cannibals, time has come for us to say good bye and catch another boat back to the capital Port Vila. With a luggage of splendid memories, we set our course back to Port Vila, Coca-Cola and cold beers.

RODENT: A fruitbat, a large bat, eating banana. A delicacy in Vanuatu (The bat!)
DINNER IS SERVED: Rice, fruits and flowers.
RODENT II: The bat was completely undisturbed by us as long as it had something to eat on.
FLAME SHOW: Finn Olav gave up to two flameshows every day, and usually the entire village would come running to watch.
BUTCHER: The bull is butchered by machete.
DRAWINGS IN THE SAND: A family enjoys themselves at the beach.
FULL OF LIFE: After some time the children thawed,and came running towards us everytime we showed ourselves.
OLD MAN: This man remembers his father being kidnapped by Australian slave traders as late as 1922.
GOING BARBECUING: We barbecued crabs, chicken and had a great time. V
TRADITIONAL: Remo shows us how they were dressed before clothes were introduced a few decades ago. Practical and easy.
CRAB HUNTING: The villagers of Malfakal hunts anything that moves, and they are some of the deadliest hunters we have come across so far. Here, a crab has been shot with bow and arrow, and is due in the casserole very soon.
JUNGLETREK: Going for a picnic.
BANDAGE: Finn Olav slipped and cut himself on the reef
ZZZZZNORE: Zzzzznore.