Tower Girl, originally uploaded by meyerak.

Pentecost is one (presumably the 50th) of 83 Islands that make up the the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. Judging by the look in her eyes, this young girl has not spent her formative years eating potato crisps and staring at a television screen.

This photo shows her helping her family to prepare for a ‘land diving’ ceremony, or Naghol, which resembles a bungee jumping competition but using vines tied around the ankles instead of modern elasticated ropes. It’s an ancient religious ceremony that tests bravery and faith – and an important part of their cultural heritage. It’s also where bungee jumping originates from.

The people of Pentecost belong to one of the last unspoilt indigenous societies on earth. According to a lovely little BBC news item that I watched the other night, there is no hunger, no tax, no crime, no police force – and everybody is chilled out and blissfully happy.

Whilst some of the other Vanuatan islands have sold out and let the developers and the tourism industry in, paving the way for concrete boxes, consumer crap and foreign exchange, Pentecost remains suspended in a time warp because they have deemed their way of life to be fine just the way it is. Their official currency is based on pig tusks – which is more sophisticated than it sounds. The central bank reserves are quite a sight!

The World Bank would define these people as poor – on a par with people in the West Bank and Gaza for example. It’s hard to see what use such a system of classification is if it can’t distinguish the difference.

Here’s more from the BBC.

2 Responses to “Pentecost”

  1. Francis Meynell Says:

    Great post, Brian – thank you.

  2. The possibility of happiness « Sumptuous! Says:

    […] possibility of happiness Here’s a lovely posting, to the Picture Post blog, about islanders on the South Pacific island of Pentecost, who’s […]

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