Yam Dance at Yaohnanen

The Lonely Planet guide rather dismissively said about the Yaohnanen yam dance, "a dozen small boys, four or five men and two or three women will dance around for a few minutes", so my expectations were pretty low, but I was very soon surprised, and then rather impressed.

About to start the dance, with young children milling around

The dance certainly started slowly enough, with a man in the centre of the group re-enacting some part of the yam growing process while the boys and the other men clapped and chanted.

It was really nice how all members of the village took part together, from very young toddlers through to the girls and the grown men.   I don't remember noticing the two boys wrapped in fern fronds on the left until I prepared this photo; as a part of the initiation process boys are circumcised at around 8 to 10 years old, so perhaps they were in need of something soft to wear!

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The deep bass voices of the men were very affecting, all the more so when you consider how short of stature they are.

As well, they were pounding the earth with their feet almost like a large drum, sending vibrations right through us.

guy in Nambas singing and swaying

Only my girlfriend and I were there, but they seemed to put all their heart into the display and really didn't seem to be doing it for us at all!

I found out later that these same villagers had been invited to Australia and had performed in several cities over there.

The dance started to become more active, with the villagers slowly circling around, men in the centre, women and boys around the outside...

Soon it was a gallop, with everyone running as the singing continued.

Finally there was a climax, with the women jumping up and down on the spot and the men and boys rushing into the centre of the circle with loud whoops and cries.

And so it was over - the boy closest to the camera even seems to be taking a bow, but someone should tell him that he needs to face the other way when he does it!   The people smiled and laughed amongst themselves, still apparently oblivious to our presence, but the men and boys soon filed over in a long line, each one shaking hands with Kathy and myself.