Kava culture In Vanuatu

Kava culture In Vanuatu

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Kava culture In Vanuatu

Kava is native to the Pacific Islands. While it is grown throughout the Pacific countries, the belief is it originates in Vanuatu. It is believed Vanuatu has rich kava history. In fact, it may be more than 3,500 years old. So, in ancient times only the high ranking men belonging to the elite societies could drink kava. This was purely for spiritual reasons. Thus, it has a special place for the people of Vanuatu. Nowadays. It is a tradition that young boys prepare kava in Vanuatu bars. These bars are known as nakamal. Kava is a non-alcoholic and non-fermented drink. However, it is intoxicating.

Kava culture today

Kava is most popular beverage in Vanuatu today. They consider it as a national drink. In fact, it is part of the country’s heritage. Hence, it is extremely important in Vanuatu culture. In fact, it is so popular that the capital city, Port Vila has more than 250 bars. These bars serve a population of about 45,000 niVanuatu. So, they identify these kava bars by hanging red and green lights outside the door.

Traditionally kava is served in half coconut shells. However, there has been a shift to glass or plastic bowls, particularly in kava bars. Kava drinkers will normally gulp the whole shell in one go. For the niVanuatu, spitting enthusiastically after drinking kava is a tradition. It means they offer to the gods. However, other people are not expected to do this. With the cultural shift, men and women can drink side by side in bars.

Recreation times

Night comes early in Vanuatu. It is recreation time. Today, in addition to ceremonial drink kava social beverage. Ancient niVanuatu were using kava for its medicinal properties too. In Vanuatu, traditionally men drink kava. However, women drink it on a casual basis. Its small capital city is bustling by 6.00pm. A reasonable number of the town people will be cosy and settled in kava bars. These bars are corrugated iron roof shelters. They are often lined with bamboo walls.

The occupants will be busy buying and drinking cups of kava. So, it is often known as Pacific’s indigenous drug. There has been a dramatic increase in these kava bars or nakamals since the country’s independence in 1980. Prior to this there were only a handful of these nakamals. At that time the recreational drink of choice was Australian beer.

Rural experience

Vanuatu’s rural and outer islands people continue to drink kava in a more traditional manner. So, it is a more ceremonial and ritual drinks. In fact, in urban areas, there has been a brisk transformation of kava. It has shifted from sacred beverage to a recreational drug. So, there are debates about kava functions in the modern times. The search is to determine if kava is sacred substance or a cash crop and contemporary political icon. There appears to be a domestic political discourse. Thus far, kava drinking now stands for the value and endurance of island custom.

Kava is now the most appropriate symbol of Vanuatu’s national identity and culture. 

Early farmers

Perhaps the attraction to kava by the early farmers was for the medicinal uses. These varieties were developed by selecting and cloning a Piper species known as Piper wichmanni. This variety grows in the wild in northern Melanesia. The belief is the Pacific travellers and settlers were responsible for taking kava cuttings to the east. So, it was taken from Vanuatu to places like Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Tahiti. It was taken to Hawaii and Marquesas. Furthermore, it was taken northward to two Micronesian islands. It was taken westward to New Guinea. 

Thus far, Vanuatu remains the zone of kava’s greatest chemical, historical, and linguistic diversification. So, there are more collection of kava in Vanuatu than anywhere else in the Pacific. Farmers propagate kava with stems cuttings.

Psychoactive ingredients

Kava plant’s contains psychoactive ingredients. A series of resinous, lipid like lactones locates mostly in its underground stumps or roots. So, the combination of these chemicals makes it muscle relaxant, analgesic, diuretic and local anaesthetic. Hence, they help reduce cardiac rhythm and dilate the pupils.

While kava classifies as a sedative hypnotic, for most consumers, the drug induces feelings of relaxation and sociability. It provides a delicate emotional serenity. Thus far, kava does not influence a consumer’s abilities to think clearly. It does not cause hallucination.