On Lifou, the Loyalty Island spirit breathes…
Lifou, or Drehu in the local language, is the largest of the Loyalty Islands, not only by its area of 1,150 km² but also by its population (9,200 inhabitants) and its administrative status. Wé, the main village of the island is beautifully located on the edge of Chateaubriand Bay and is home to the provincial headquarters, the district’s administration, the central municipal offices, and most of the shops.
Even more than in the other islands, the variety of natural sites in Lifou encourages the visitor to explore. The coast, crenellated with long, deep bays, gracefully links long white-sand beaches, cliffs cut out of the old reef and magically coloured banks of coral. The interior of the island, a vast plain built on the old lagoon, is covered with dense tropical forest suitable for hiking and dotted with numerous limestone caves, some of which can be visited and others which are still partly unexplored.
Officially discovered and mapped by the Frenchman Dumont d'Urville in 1827, Lifou was soon besieged by dozens of Catholic and Protestant missionaries. They took advantage of the opportunity to make the island a private setting for their struggle for influence over local souls and the more prosaic competition between the British Empire and France for control of this part of the South Pacific.
Today, daily life, social organisation and the environment still bear the marks of this historically troubled period and of visits by 19th-century sailors, sandalwood traders, whalers and “blackbirders”.
The Loyalty Islands were only annexed by France in 1864. However, not being suitable for intensive colonisation, they were constituted as a native reserve, a status which would permanently shape the archipelago’s history and the specific character of the Loyalty Islanders.
More than 90% of the land area is customary land. Lifou is home to three customary districts: Wetr in the north of the island (17 tribes), Gaica in the centre (4 tribes) and Lössi in the south (16 tribes). The liveliness of its traditions and customs is tangible, both during the great customary festivals and in all the acts of daily life such as agriculture or the construction of huts.
Come and meet Lifou,
the island of many faces.
A SHORT DREHU DICTIONARY
Drehu is the common language in Lifou. All the languages of the Loyalty Islands (except Ouvéa) are typically Melanesian. Except for a few "elders" and very young children, all the inhabitants of the island speak French. Here are some common words and expressions in Drehu, for pronunciation, ask your host for advice: Some good laughs are assured!
|Goodbye||>||IÖHNYI HË E KETRE|
|See you tomorrow||>||ELANYI HÊ|
|Very good||>||KALOLO CATR|
|Not good||>||THA KA LOLO KÖ|
|Not well||>||THA KA LOI KÖ|
|A meal||>||CA TREPEXEN|
|Coconut palm crab||>||ZILIWA|
|The reef||>||I HUCA|
|A walk||>||HNA NGENU|
|How are you?||>||HAPEUE LAI ?|
|Very well, thanks||>||EGÖCATR OLETI|