The Vanuatu culture is ancient and unique, often varying from island to island. Village life still flourishes in this island nation, with many communities welcoming guests to visit and experience their traditions.
If you’d like a more formal introduction to Vanuatu’s heritage, there are a variety of cultural centres and museums dedicated to showcasing the region’s history and preserving native custom.
While its origins may date back 3000 years, Vanuatu also features a rich contemporary history, with the impact of World War II still evident today. Much of this can be explored by visiting or diving the many war relic sites, including Vanuatu’s renowned shipwrecks.
Established in 1955, the Vanuatu Cultural Centre documents the traditions, histories and lifestyle of the ni-Vanuatu people. The centre provides a fascinating insight into the village life, and tribal culture of the regions, with artefacts, hands-on displays, and images. From sand drawing to music, dance, and contemporary arts, this is the place to explore Vanuatu’s indigenous culture and heritage, and is located in Port Vila.
Housed within the Cultural Centre in Port Vila is the National Museum of Vanuatu. Featuring ancient items used by the first people to arrive in the region 3000 years ago, the museum’s exhibits also encompass the more contemporary history of Vanuatu. New displays include a World War II exhibition, information on the struggle for independence, and historical and modern art.
The bright and colourful Lakatoro Cultural Centre is located in Malekula Island’s administrative centre. Although small, the centre offers an introduction to the mysterious culture of this island. In Malekula’s rugged jungles, cannibalism lasted longer than anywhere else, and tribal living is still practiced. The Malekulans now proudly share their heritage, and you can gain an insight via the artefacts, cultural objects, and stories on display.
Vanuatu was among the many Pacific islands heavily impacted by World War II, and the Matanawora WWII relics are just some of the lingering memorabilia left behind. Located on the northern end of Efate, the relics comprise two US fighter planes in the shallow waters near Baofatu, and a museum of further items. Museum opening hours can vary, so it’s best to check times before you visit.