The three day Toka Festival on Vanuatu’s Tanna island is one of Vanuatu’s major cultural events. This gift-exchanging ceremony makes a magnificent sight, as up to 2000 participants attempt to out-do each other with their lavish gifts, dancing skills and ornate makeup. This festival is a symbol of alliance between different tribal groups and the more one gives, the larger status they acquire.
The ceremony begins with women dancing all night, surrounded by men who are waiting for dawn to come so they can take their place. At sunrise, the Toka dance begins and the men mime scenes of daily life. A group of the host village then carries out a dance in reply to the Toka, stamping the ground rhythmically. There is also a pig killing ceremony, food exchange and visits to various Nakamals.
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