THE FEMALE CHIEFS OF VANUATU

Llewellyn Toulmin
2017 Asia Pacific Journal of Research   unpublished
For 126 years writers and anthropologists have stated or assumed that there were no "female chiefs" in the Republic of Vanuatu (ex-New Hebrides, in the southwest Pacific). The word "chief" is of Western origin, but is important in Vanuatu (and other Pacific nations) today, because it is a term used in the Vanuatu Constitution, laws, regulations, government programs, public policy, culture and society. Interviews and observations in 2016 revealed that in fact a limited number of female chiefs do
more » ... of female chiefs do exist, who identify themselves and are recognized as such; that some have the right to speak in village nakamals (traditional clubhouses for decision-making usually reserved for male chiefs); that many become graded chiefs via a sacred pig-killing ceremony (like men do); and that a few for a time even take on all the powers and responsibilities of male chiefs. An estimate of the number of female chiefs vs. male chiefs is undertaken. The situation on Maewo island, where many women use the title of "female cultural leader" (Notari), not "female chief," is also explored, to update and expand on the previous Maewo research on "making Lengwasa"-the pig-killing ceremony that results in the women of that island receiving the respected title of Notari.
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