The Search for the Elusive Female Chiefs of Vanuatu, January 19, 2017, 6pm
For over 100 years, researchers, writers and anthropologists have agreed that there are no female chiefs in Vanuatu or even Melanesia. Writing in 1914, William Rivers in his History of Melanesian Society stated that on Pentecost, females had prefixes to their names indicating differences in rank, but he firmly stated that this was “not connected with any organization resembling the Sukwe” – the male chiefly system. And this was the closest that women came to chiefly status. His analysis has prevailed, down to the present. So I was quite shocked when over pizza at the Numbawan Café a couple of years ago, my friend (and now the Vanuatu Telecom Regulator) Dalsie Baniala casually mentioned that her sister on Maewo was a “female chief.” I said, “That is not possible – there are none!” And so the search for the elusive female chiefs of Vanuatu began.
Join Lew Toulmin of the famous New York Explorers Club to learn more about his search for the elusive female chiefs of Vanuatu.