Vanuatu student George Koran (L) carving the wooden tamtam with the help of a fellow student.
A Vanuatu student from The University of the South Pacific (USP) is currently carving a wooden tamtam to be displayed in front of the Research Office at the Laucala Campus.
George Koran originally from North Ambrym, Vanuatu said he passed by the Research Office one day and noticed the wear and tear on the current one standing outside.
He then approached Mr Henry Bill, Deputy Chair USP Student Association (USPSA) Federal and offered to carve a new one. Mr Bill then met with Professor Jito Vanualailai, USP Director Research and this is how the initial agreement came into place.
“The tamtam is significant in my tribe and we normally carve it only for chiefs to be displayed at their sacred ceremonial sites known in Vanuatu as Nasara. I am proud and privileged to be doing this for USP,” said Mr Koran, who is into his final year at USP.
According to Mr Bill, the tamtam is only carved by the people of North Ambrym and only certain people who have been recognised through customary rank can carve it.
“It is a taboo for anybody else to carve the tamtam in Vanuatu. As these wooden carvings carry very high customary value and respect, the process has to be in a respected manner as well,” he stated.
“Even removing the old tamtam in front of the Research office, only Mr Koran is allowed to do that and replace the new one with the help of his Vanuatu peers followed by a small kava ceremony to mark the replacement of the tamtam,” he explained.
Mr Koran is studying the Bachelor of Science programme, majoring in Environment and Geospatial Science.
“I have been working on it for the sixth week now but normally with this size of carving, it would take a whole week to finish it especially with modern tools,” he added.
He explained that the breadfruit tree is normally used to carry out such carvings and the one he is currently working on is a branch that fell during Tropical Cyclone Winston last year.
“At home, we normally use old breadfruit trees, the older the tree the stronger the inner part is for carving,” he added.
When the USP Communications team visited Mr Koran at the site, he had finished carving with a chisel and was shining the object with sandpaper, together with a friend. The duo were also preparing to varnish the tamtam.
Mr Bill added this is not only a milestone achievement but a historical one to have a student studying while carving and especially at this time as the University gears towards preparations for celebration of its 50th Anniversary.
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