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Culture

CULTURE, the HUB of LIFE

Custom

Like the centrepost of the Grande Case (Great Hut), custom is the pivot of Kanak culture. Rich in traditions and secular myths, it binds together community life in the tribal villages.

Traditional Kanak custom organisation, which goes back to time immemorial, is still very much alive and continues to govern daily life. Every individual belongs to a clan — an extended family – with its totem, legends, and clan chief. Clans form tribes, which are each placed under the authority of a Lesser Chief (petit chef) who is responsible for “private” custom organisation. The tribes are grouped into districts under the leadership of a High Chief (grand chef), whose authority over his “subjects” ’ daily lives is undisputed. Custom organisation is based on oral tradition and governs all aspects of the Kanak community and private life. Your Kanak hosts will be delighted to share their culture with you and introduce you to its myriad aspects. For tourists, respect for custom is shown by making sure that you do not enter certain taboo places (such as the inner compounds of the chefferies (chieftaincies), and certain beaches, forests and specific places that are not necessarily signposted) without prior permission from the village or clan chiefs. Before visiting sites, or taking photographs, find out what you need to do. It may be a simple verbal request or, in some specific cases, a custom ritual in which words of welcome are spoken after gifts are exchanged.
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A living culture...

Colonisation has influenced the traditional living culture of the Loyalty Islands without weakening it. External influences, which brought the Christian religion, money, and cricket, have been merged with the traditional culture. The result is an original and mixed culture where spirits coexist harmoniously with Christian saints, where cricket and bingo "the loyalties way" are unmissable convivial events, where traditional music and dances borrow willingly from modern sounds, and contemporary dance as well as hip-hop.

Languages

Four local languages are spoken in the Loyalty Islands. Over the past three centuries, they have absorbed Polynesian, French, English or Pidgin English words and expressions, as many Loyalty Islanders worked in Australia during the blackbirding period when sugar cane plantations trafficked in labour.

Nengone is the language spoken in Tiga and Maré. Drehu, Lifou's language, is also, after French, the language most widely spoken by Kanaks and the most taught in schools in New Caledonia. Ouvéa is the only one of the Loyalty Islands to have two local languages, Iaaï and Faga-uvea. Faga-uvea is a Polynesian language, the legacy of Polynesian migrations that reached these islands in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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The cultural heritage of the Loyalty Islands

Eglise de Pénélo
Historic site and monument

Église de Pénélo

Maré
The Church of the Holy Cross of Penelo was built in 1910 and inaugurated in 1915.
Église Saint-Michel
Historic site and monument

Church of Saint-Michel

Ouvéa
The Catholic church of Saint-Michel is located in the centre of Fayaoué island and the capital of the island.
Église Saint Jean-Baptiste de Hnathalo
Historic site and monument

Church of St. John the Baptist of Hnathalo

Lifou
The Church of St. John the Baptist is located in the Hnathalo tribal village in the Wetr district.
Mission de la Roche
Historic site and monument

La Roche mission

Maré
Built in1866, the Mission Church stands amidst abundant vegetation at the foot of the high coral rock that gave the tribe its name (Roche meaning rock in French).
Église du Sacré Cœur de Wé
Historic site and monument

Church of the Sacred Heart of Wé

Lifou
Built by the missionaries of the Sacred Heart Xavier Montrouzier and François Palazy, this small church located by the sea does not lack style.
Chapelle Notre-Dame de Lourdes
Historic site and monument

Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes

Lifou
Perched on the hill overlooking the Bay of Santal (Sandalwood Bay), the Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes provides a magnificent viewpoint from which to admire the bay.
Monument dédié à l’arrivée de l’Évangile
Historic site and monument

Monument dédié à l’arrivée de l’Évangile

Maré
Located in the Roh tribal village some 200 m after the church, this monument commemorates the arrival in 1841 of the first Polynesian Protestant catechists who came to evangelize the island.
Mémorial des dix-neuf d’Ouvéa
Historic site and monument

Mémorial des dix-neuf d’Ouvéa

Ouvéa
A monument in memory of the 1988 hostage-taking and the 19 pro-independence activists killed during the assault on the Gossanah cave.
Église Saint-François Xavier
Historic site and monument

Church of St. Francis Xavier

Lifou
The Church of St. Francis Xavier in Easo was one of the first churches built in Lifou.
Monument dédié à l’arrivée de l’Évangile
Historic site and monument

Monument dédié à l’arrivée de l’Évangile

Lifou
On Ahmelewedr beach, stands a monument that commemorates the arrival in Lifou of the Protestant missionaries Fao and Zakaria in 1842.
Grande chefferie de Drueulu
Thematic house

Grand Chiefdom of Drueulu

Lifou
The Grand Chiefdom of the district of Gaïca is located in the Drueulu tribal village, about 20 minutes from the island’s capital.
Maison de la vanille
Company open to the public

House of vanilla

Lifou
From growing to tasting, discover the secrets of vanilla, its history, and its evolution.
Église du Saint-Nom-de-Marie
Historic site and monument

Church of the Holy Name of Mary

Ouvéa
From the beach, a majestic access path of columnar pines leads to the church, which overlooks the lagoon from the top of a small hill.
Monument la Monique
Historic site and monument

Monument to the sinking of the Monique

Maré
On the quayside facing the sea at Tadine stands the monument to La Monique in memory of the 126 people who disappeared in 1953 on the ship La Monique somewhere between Maré and Nouméa.
Grande chefferie de Mou
Thematic house

Grand Chiefdom of Mou

Lifou
The Grand Chiefdom of the Lössi District is located in the Mou tribal village, in the south of the island.
Centre culturel Yeiwene Yeiwene
The Yeiwene Yeiwene Cultural Centre is named after the pro-independence leader from Maré, who was assassinated with Jean-Marie Tjibaou in 1989. It is located near the megalithic fortifications of Hnaenedre.
Église Saint-Joseph
Historic site and monument

St. Joseph's Church

Ouvéa
Built in 1912, the imposing Saint-Joseph church stands facing the sea, flanked by a beautiful colonial building.
Grande chefferie de Hnathalo
Thematic house

Great Chiefdom of Hnathalo

Lifou
The traditional hut of the Great Chiefdom of the Wetr District is located in the Hnathalo tribal village, just five minutes from Wanaham Airfield.
Huilerie/Savonnerie d’Ouvéa
Company open to the public

Huilerie/Savonnerie d’Ouvéa

Ouvéa
The company Iaai Savonnerie des Îles – ISI – manufactures solid soaps from copra oil supplied by the local oil mill using an artisanal process.
Distillerie de santal de Takone
Company open to the public

Takone sandalwood distillery

Maré
Santalwood and Fragrances. SNN: an international industrial project perfectly integrated with local customs.

INTERACTIVE MAP

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