Tanna (island)

Tanna (island)

Infobox Islands
name =Tanna

image caption =Tanna and the nearby island of Aniwa

native name =
native name link =
location=South Pacific Ocean
archipelago = Vanuatu
total islands =
major islands =
area = convert|550|km2|sqmi|abbr=on
length = convert|40|km|mi|abbr=on
width = convert|19|km|mi|abbr=on
highest mount =Mount Tukosmera
elevation = convert|1084|m|ft|abbr=on
country =Vanuatu
country admin divisions title =Province
country admin divisions =Tafea Province
country largest city =Lénakel
country largest city population =
population =about 20,000
population as of =
density = 36.36
ethnic groups = Melanesians

Tanna (sometimes spelled Tana) is an island of Vanuatu. It is 40 km (25 mi) long and 19 km (12 mi) wide, with a total area of 550 km² (212 sq mi). Its highest point is the 1,084 m (3,556 ft) summit of Mount Tukosmera. It is the most populated island in Tafea province, with a population of about 20,000, and one of the more populous islands in the country. Isangel, the provincial administrative capital, is on the west coast near the island's largest town of Lénakel. Mount Yasur is the most accessible active volcano in the world, located on the southeast coast.

Culture and economy

Tanna is populated almost entirely by Melanesians and they follow a more traditional lifestyle than many other islands. Some of the villages are known as kastom villages, where modern inventions are restricted, the inhabitants wear penis sheaths (Bislama: "nambas") and grass skirts, and the children do not go to public schools. According to anthropologist Joël Bonnemaison, who has studied the Tannese extensively, their resistance to change is due to their traditional worldview and how they "perceive, internalise, and account for the dual concepts of space and time." [Lissant Bolton. [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3654/is_199612/ai_n8744490 Tree and the Canoe: History and ethnogeography of Tanna] , "The Oceania", Dec 1996]

The island is the centre of the John Frum cargo cult, which worships an American World War II soldier as their god. Yaohnanen is the centre of the Prince Philip movement, which worships Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and prince consort of the United Kingdom. [David Stanley. [http://www.southpacific.org/text/finding_vanuatu.html Vanuatu Travel Guide] at Southpacific.org]

There are five languages spoken on Tanna: North Tanna in the northwest, Lénakel in the west-central area near Lénakel, Southwest Tanna in the southwest, Whitesands in the northeast near Whitesands, and Kwamera in the southeast. These are generally grouped into the Tanna languages family, which is a subgroup of the South Vanuatu languages, an Austronesian language branch. According to "Ethnologue", each is spoken by a few thousand, and Lénakel, with 6,500 speakers, is one of the languages of Vanuatu with the most speakers. Most people on Tanna also speak Bislama, which is one of Vanuatu's three official languages (together with English and French).

The island is one of the most fertile in Vanuatu and produces kava, coffee, coconut, copra, and other fruits and vegetables. Recently, tourism has become more important, as tourists are attracted to the volcano and traditional culture. To help preserve the integrity of culture as a tourism asset, only local people are permitted to act as guides. There are many accommodations available on the island. There is an airport at White Grass on the western coast.


The island was first settled about 400 BC by Melanesians from the surrounding islands. The glowing light of Mount Yasur attracted Captain Cook, the first European, to the island in August 1774, where he founded Port Resolution, a town on the eastern tip of the island, named after his ship HMS "Resolution". He gave the island the name of Tanna, probably from the local name for earth, "tana" in the Kwamera language. In the 19th century, traders and missionaries (chiefly Presbyterian) arrived, but the Tannese stuck to their traditions more strongly than other islands; there remain fewer Christians in comparison with the other islands of Vanuatu. The island became famous in Europe as a place of cannibalism and risk for missionaries. [ [http://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/biorppaton.html Biography of John Gibson Paton] at Christian Biography Resources] It was not a principal site of World War II, but about 1,000 people from Tanna were recruited to work on the American military base on Éfaté. First exposure to First World living standards may have led to the development of cargo cults. Many have died out, but the John Frum cult remains strong on Tanna today, especially at Sulphur Bay in the south east and Green Point in the South West of the Island.

A secessionist movement began in the 1970s, and the Nation of Tanna was proclaimed on March 24, 1974. While the British were more open to allowing its holdings in Vanuatu independence, it was opposed by the French colonists and finally suppressed by the Anglo-French Condominium authorities on June 29, 1974. In 1980, there was another attempt to secede, declaring the Tafea Nation on January 1, 1980, its name coming from the initials of the five islands that were to be part of the nation (Tanna, Aniwa, Futuna, Erromango and Aneityum). British forces intervened on May 26, 1980 allowing the island to become part of the newly independent nation of Vanuatu on July 30, 1980.


In 2007, five native ambassadors for the island of Tanna (Yapa Nekiwris, Posen Iarpita Napu, Albi Nagia, Jimmy Joseph Nakou and Joel Numapen) took part in a Channel 4 documentary named "Meet the Natives" where the ambassadors lived with the three native "tribes" of England: the working class; the middle class and the upper class. The five ambassadors took part in many local activities from fox-hunting to playing darts in a traditional pub. It many times in the programme the five compare life in England to life in Tanna, often loaded with home truths.


#if: {colwidth|}| style="-moz-column-width:{colwidth}; column-width:{colwidth};" | #if: {1|}| style="-moz-column-count:{1}; column-count:{1} };" |>
4 Luis Pancorbo: "El culto del carguero al Príncipe Felipe". En "Fiestas del Mundo. Las Máscaras de la Luna". Pp. 72-79. Ediciones del Serbal. Barcelona, 1996.

External links

* [http://www.positiveearth.org/bungalows/TAFEA/tanna.htm Tourism page] , including map
* [http://www.pacificislandtravel.com/vanuatu/about_destin/tanna.asp Pacific Island Travel page] , with photos and cultural information
* [http://coombs.anu.edu.au/SpecialProj/VAN/tanna.html Languages of Tanna] , including language map
* [http://www.worldisround.com/articles/280957/index.html Collection of photos from Tanna]
* "BBC News", [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/6734469.stm Is Prince Philip an island god?] , 10 June 2007, accessed 10 June 2007

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tanna — can refer to:;Places *Tanna (island), an island in Vanuatu *Tanna, Germany, a city in Thuringia;People *Tanna (people) The ethnic people of Tanna in Vanuatu *Tannaim, Rabbinic sages recorded in the Mishna * Tanna, a last name common among Lohanas …   Wikipedia

  • Tanna Adventures — (Looukeureus,Вануату) Категория отеля: 2 звездочный отель Адрес: Tanna Island, Loo …   Каталог отелей

  • Tanna Ground Dove — The female painted in 1774. Conservation status …   Wikipedia

  • Tanna Ground-dove — Taxobox name = Tanna Ground Dove status = EX | status system = IUCN3.1 extinct = c. 1800 image width = 250px image caption = The female painted in 1774. regnum = Animalia phylum = Chordata classis = Aves ordo = Columbiformes familia = Columbidae… …   Wikipedia

  • tanna — tannaitic /tah neuh it ik/, adj. Seph. Heb. /tah nah /; Ashk. Heb., Eng. /tah nah/, n., pl. tannaim Seph. Heb. /tah nah eem /; Ashk. Heb., Eng. /tah nah im/. (often cap.) Judaism. one of a group of Jewish scholars, active in Palestine during the… …   Universalium

  • Tanna languages — The family of Tanna languages is a subgroup of the South Vanuatu languages. It consists of the five languages spoken on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu.Components*Kwamera *Lenakel *North Tanna *Southwest Tanna *WhitesandsExternal links*… …   Wikipedia

  • Tanna — geographical name island SW Pacific in Vanuatu population 19,825 …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Aoba Island — Infobox Mountain Name = Aoba Photo = Ambae island 3D pic.jpg Caption = Aoba (Ambae) Island, image acquired by the Space Shuttle Endeavour Elevation = 1,496 metres (4,908 ft) location=Vanuatu Range = Prominence = 1,496 m Coordinates =… …   Wikipedia

  • Malo Island — This article is about the island in Vanuatu. For the island in the Solomon Islands, see Malo (Solomon Islands). Coordinates: 15°41′S 167°10′E / 15.683°S 167.167°E …   Wikipedia

  • Pentecost Island — Lage der Insel Karte der Pentecost Insel Die Pentecost Insel ist eine der 83 Inseln, die den pazifischen Inselstaat Vanuatu bilden. Sie liegt 190 Kilometer nördlich von der Hauptstadt Port Vila. Pentec …   Deutsch Wikipedia