Melanesia

Vanuatu Malakula Dancers

Melanesia is a term describing Pacific islands inhabited by black skinned people. It includes the islands of the Torres Straits, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Fiji. The long chain of islands is highly volcanic and is also known as the "ring of fire".

The people who inhabited these rugged volcanic islands thousands of years ago established small isolated village communities that persist to this day.The communities are genetically and linguistically diverse, with over 400 languages, often as different from one another as French is from Russian.  People sharing the same language are known as "one talks" and are considered extended family (which they are).

Although culturally and linguistically diverse, Melanesian people share a common bond in a sense of identity with their island. The people of the island of Tikopea, for example, speak of themselves as "we the Tikopea" a term that encompasses the people,  island, trees, gardens, and coral reefs as one living entity. Melanesians are masters at social harmony. You can understand why they have to be when you consider that 90 percent of them live in small, very isolated villages that have been in exactly the same location for thousands of years. Melanesians tend to stay where they were born until they die - generation after generation. If they failed to achieve social harmony they would not survive long. A person unable to "adapt" was (and still can be) banished from the village. Until the mid 1900's this usually was a death sentence as the concept of social harmony generally extended just to the boundary of the tribal lands and inter-tribal warfare and cannibalism was common.

Melanesia is one of the few places on our planet where one can see truly ancient custom dances and rituals performed with utter sincerity and cultural importance.  Almost all of the Melanesian people are Christians but there are many who are Muslims and still a few who cling to their custom religions. But even dressed up in Christian clothes, their spirits remain one with their ancestors and their land. It is a fascinating part of our world, rich in powerful images.

Gregory Panayotou
Yedjele Beach
Gregory Panayotou
Wabao Beach
Gregory Panayotou
Loyalty Island - Mare : Spining Araucaria columnaris
Nick Hobgood
A stroll between the bures at Matava Eco-resort on Kadavu Island
Nick Hobgood
In front of the main bure at Matava Eco-resort on Kadavu Island
Gregory Panayotou
Mare : Turtle Bay Beach
Gregory Panayotou
Laregnere Island
Gregory Panayotou
On My Way to Laregnere Island
Gregory Panayotou
Laregnere island by 30kn
Richard Chesher
Blue Coral Patch Ilot Mato New Caledonia
Gregory Panayotou
Moonrise Over Eni Beach
Gregory Panayotou
Tanna Island, Mont Yasur Volcano, 17h45
Nick Hobgood
Coral coast sunset, Fiji
Nick Hobgood
Clear rock pools at sunrise
Tina Gauer & Oli Burle - www.360tourist.net
Raja Ampat Lagoon
Richard Chesher
Blue-Eyed Squid Ilot Ua New Caledonia
Richard Chesher
Red and Yellow Octocorals at Ilot Kouare New Caledonia
Gregory Panayotou
A Rainy Night at Ilot Maitre - New Caledonia
Richard Chesher
Red Sea Fan, Octopus and Ilot Mbe Kouen
Gregory Panayotou
The Tree & The Sunset