2 Jun 2006

Vanuatu chiefs gives totem pole to Paris museum

9:59 am on 2 June 2006

A chief from the Vanuatu island of Tanna is to offer a traditional totem pole, known as Kwerrya, for the opening of a new museum in Paris.

This has been announced by the French ambassador in Port Vila three weeks before the planned opening which is to coincide with a summit called by France with leaders from Pacific Island countries.

The ambassador says the gift reflects the positive sentiment towards a French colonial commander in 1912 who resisted British Presbyterian missionaries keen to get the Tanna islanders to abandon their traditions.

The missionaries wanted the indigenous people to stop drinking kava and perform traditional dances under threat of jail terms to be given by a religious tribunal.