Snake Dance on Ra Island in North Vanuatu
Ra Island has long been known for its spectacular reefs off the coastal shores, the wonderful people who were believed to be immigrants from Vietnam and their rich culture. It is also the Island whose elders in many centuries back been ruled by the legendary king “mountain snake” and the queen rattle “sea snake”.
In a village called “Lehai” meaning “over there”, men and women would go to their gardens and they would leave their children with an old woman to look after till they return home in the evening. The sea snake’s home was on Mota island on a rock called Vetvet Gemel, not far from Ra and Motalava.
When the elders were gone, Sea Snake would sneak in to Lehai village and started teaching the children its snake dance – not knowing that an old woman was in one of the old huts watching. Hiding in the grass hut, the woman watched deliberately till after several days she knew everything; the songs, the dance steps and more.
The woman then told the men about it so the men made plans to kill the sea snake. Sea snake was killed moons later. The men then became so jealous that the women and the girls in the village would dance the snake dance so they took the old woman who had all the secrets in to the “nakamal” (traditional ceremonial house built from thatch leaves, vines and wood) and forced her to teach them everything she learnt. The old woman was also killed some moons later after she taught the men everything she knew from the snake dance.
Snake dance is now very popular on Ra and is occasionally performed by men and boys during ceremonies and festivals within the region of Banks Islands.