Posts Tagged ‘traditional’

Houses and Dances

According to the Official Micronesia Travel Guide, Yap has two villages that are worth a visit. They are the Balabat Villager and the Okau Village. The villages of Yap are still used as meeting houses by the elders to discuss community matters.

Each village is divided into family groups and a large family group has three types of houses.  The community house is the largest, it is a wooden structure with a steepthatched roof and open sides, where everyone gets together to dance sing and count their stone money. Then the nuclear families each have a sleeping house which of course is where the family sleeps. The third is the men’s club house where community decisions are made.

The community houses are very important.  Usually, there is one community house for men and another one for women. The men’s houses, called faluw, are typically situated near the water. The functions of men’s and women’s houses have changed, but taboos still apply. Always ask permission before approaching or taking pictures.

Dances happen in the community houses on weekends and since Yapese people are very private, in order for you to observe a traditional dance, you should arrange a visit to one of the community houses through one of the village elders.

Elders teach the village youth stories and how to communicate them through dancing. A dance is known as “churu” and each performance tells a Yapese story. For example, there are dances which explain the Japanese occupation in Yap and then the US occupation during World War II. For a video of a traditional dance, click on the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gRRxn8Fsek

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Yap Clothing

You’ve probably already seen the pictures on the left hand side and noticed that female dancers are wearing special grass skirts. They are handwoven and known as “lavas”. As previous posts explained, it is very improper of women to show their thighs in public and that is why each lava extends below the knees.

“Thus” is the name of the loincloths Yapese men traditionally wear. Star Newspaper explains that elderly men in Yap wear dry hibiscus and a lava lava with their thus, which signifies they’ve proven their manhood through fighting. Younger men typically wear t-shirts and shorts. The same source also notes that boys in villages still grow up wearing thus and they do that in a special order, starting with a single piece of cloth, and then adding pieces of cloth as they grow older until they get to three pieces which are blue, red or white.

This blog talks about the unique things in Yapese culture but as a result of the Western influence in Micronesia, many parts of Yap and the surrounding islands are now modernized. In Colonia, the capital of Yap, a visitor can see both men and women wearing Western clothing. You can also see a shirt over a lava lava skirt, or yet another combination- a topless woman talking on a cell phone. And we just added another reason on the list of “Why Yap Is So Cool”.