Yam Harvest day in Tanna

The Island of Tanna holds an annual celebration for the first harvest of yam for the season, with the people from the southern part of the island marking the harvest with the Yanarawia festival.

It is customary to offer a special ceremony on that day to “Majikjiki”, the god or spirit who is believed to have been blessing them with a good harvest every year. Crops like banana, taro and fish are collected during the day before and stored at the nakamal as a thank you offering to the god.

As with all of Tannese life, the cycle of planting, raising and harvesting yams is interwoven with what we might call ‘magic’ or animistic practice, and what Tannese call ‘kastom.’ It includes fasting and observations of ‘taboos,’ right relationships, and honouring particular members of society. It also involves the manipulation of the elements, through a combination of rituals involving spirits relating to stones and the mental and emotional state of the people involved. This doesn’t just occur on an individual level, as it might in western society, but on a corporate level where the actions and beliefs of all members of the community can impact on the harvest as a whole.