Wednesday, 29 June 2011

A day at the museum

Visiting museums has always been my passion whenever I go. No matter however old and obsolete a museum can be, there is always something interesting to see and learn. The National Museum in Port Vila may look dull from outside, but it becomes interesting inside since it displays various collections of the Melanesian art and culture as well as the early history of the country under the reign of French-British condominium government. With entry fee of 500 VT or equal to IDR 44,000, the visitors will be entertained with the sand drawing show, a traditional custom of Pentecost island, done by the museum guide. As he creates a very beautiful drawing, he tells the story about what he draws continuously without even pulling his finger off the sand.

Sand drawing

Cute turtle

On my first visit, I was surprised as I found a set of angklung (traditional musical instruments made from bamboo tubes originated from West Java) displayed at one corner of the museum, marked as the gift from the infamous Saung Angklung Udjo in Bandung, my hometown. Later, on my next visit, I learnt that the "Angklung Workshop" was organised thanks to the cooperation between the Vanuatu Cultural Centre and the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra, Australia. Not only that, when I accompanied my friend coming from Suva to visit the museum, we had the chance to see the performance of children playing Vanuatu's national anthem and Indonesia Pusaka song...wonderful!

Angklung instruments from Saung Angklung Udjo, Bandung

After enjoying the two main shows, the visitors can see the museum collections, including totems, shells, traditional weapons, as well as the Vanuatu custom stories, one of which reminded me of the Balinese custom in the past, where the families and wives of the great Melanesian chief called Roi Mata are obliged to follow their dead husband to the grave in order to show their devotion and therefore, they will be buried alive together with the corpse in an island now called Hat Island (as it has the shape of a hat). Due to the history and its importance value in the Melanesian culture, the sacred Chief Roi Mata Domain in Hat Island is given the status as World Heritage Site of UNESCO in 2008 making it the Vanuatu's first world heritage site.

Melanesian totem

The National Museum is located in front of the Parliament Building, about 10- minute walking distance from downtown. It is open from Monday to Friday from 9 am to 4 pm and Saturday from 9 am to 12 pm.

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