Monday, June 10, 2013

Diving Into Manhood

I have just returned from the island of Pentecost for the nangol (land-diving), a rite of passage in which young boys climb onto a tower with vines tied around their ankles and dive, similar to bungee jumping. Boys are kept in a nakamal for a week and forbidden to eat certain foods before hand. They are also trained to dive. It is a rite of passage into adulthood. It is inspired by a kastom, and some would say misogynistic, legend in which a woman was being chased from a man attempting to rape her. She tied a vine to her feet and jumped off a cliff. The man chased her off the cliff and fell to his death, while she survived. Supposedly, the nangol represents the men now outsmarting the woman. The most beautiful aspect of the nangol, however, is the kastom singing from the language of South Pentecost that accompanies the diving. Men shift back and forth while singing the song while boys jump from different levels of the tower. It is a unique cultural tradition practiced only on Pentecost Island.

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