Thursday, September 06, 2007


You do not travel far through the islands of the Pacific without becoming acquainted with Kava. Vanuatu is no different; in fact, it is often called the home of Kava. As in other Pacific islands, it is used both socially and ceremonially, and is intrinsically part of the culture.

There has been a lot of debate about Kava recently, resulting in a ban on its importation in Australia, where it was introduced into Aboriginal communities in the 1980's to counteract the harmful and addictive effects of alcohol. It is claimed that the Kava is now being abused, with undesirable physical, social and financial effects. Many disagree.It is a complex issue, and the Pacific peoples living in Australia have been disadvantaged by the ban.

Kava Bar in Sola, Vanua Lava

Kava is prepared from the roots of a type of pepper plant. It can be prepared and consumed fresh by grinding the roots and mixing with water. A dried form is available. It is NOT a fermented beverage like alcohol, and strictly speaking is not a narcotic. It is more correctly termed a food and an analgesic. It is actually used medicinally in many places. Kava produces a feeling of well-being and relaxation, and promotes goodwill and social cohesion in a group. It is not conducive to aggression and violence.

This Kava Bar is run by Lilian, Jimmy's mother

Jimmy works on his grandfather Norman's Kava plantation. This involves an hour or two's walk to where the plants are cultivated. The whole plant is harvested because the roots are used. New plants are grown from cuttings, which strike easily in the tropical climate. Each afternoon, Kava is prepared fresh from the day's harvest, and sold in various Kava Bars along the street. Everyone gathers in these bars for an hour or two each afternoon, before dinner. The atmosphere in the bars is quiet and low key, and it is a real "chilling out" time before dinner.

Jimmy's Kava plantation. The soil is so friable, little more than a digging stick is needed.

New plants are grown from cuttings. They are 2 - 4 years old before harvesting.

Tom, Bernie and Charles were welcomed to Sola by 'the Diocese' with a formal Kava ceremony.

Later, they had "takeaways" which they drank in their wineglasses in Lilian's dining area.

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