More or less everything cultural has found its way inside these two volumes, as regards New Caledonia proper and the Loyalty Islands, in all sorts of ways which will be discovered through reading, page after page, what wishes to be considered as rich if not in theory (I am very careful at this level), at least in detail of the data, in the strong details which make the real value of a book in anthropology (each theory being brushed off by the next generation).
The experience of the last decades has shown the value of this text for the people, and the amount of young people asking for it, because they inevitably find their family lore inside. I had only been the scribe of their forefathers and only put in form what they had decided to tell me, for all sorts of good or bad reasons, acccording to the status of the viewer and the viewed inside the colonial set up. I was the only French civil servant trained and employed to know all that there was to learn about the island people.
This work on Tanna has been the best received in all of Professor Jean Guiart’s professional career. His experience in New Caledonia and the Loyalty islands, on Ambrym and Malekula, allowed him to work quickly and efficiently; all the time in the day being taken by field work, sleeping in the open and eating what was brought to him by the people. He never required anything from them and let them act on their own.
This work had been asked from him by the two Resident Commissioners, in what has become Vanuatu, the French and the British, after a bout of the millenarian movement known under the name of John Frum, the one who would «broom» the white man away. The method chosen by the author, carefully refined through his previous experiences, was to establish a kind of public workshop in each village, everybody being present, particularly the women, whose presence was needed to compensate the men’s at times insufficient memory and to prevent them from bringing in the situation too much imagination.
Since his retirement, he lives in Tahiti (French Polynesia) and Noumea (New Caledonia), where he founded in 1997 his publishing company Rocher-à-la-Voile.
His research interests are the arts and religions of Oceania, particularly New Caledonia and Vanuatu (formerly New Hebrides). He made an important contribution to the studies of Kanak society.
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