1-8 Barate mo Kastom blo Mared
I went to a wedding at the end of December. It was an interesting experience.
The wedding itself was a proper Catholic wedding: white dress, black suit and bridesmaids. The priest talked forever and I fell asleep. There was a communion. I was napping at the time.
Let me first say, this is a restrained culture when it comes to Christian taboos. If it is taboo, it is off limits and no one talks about. People don’t meet my eyes when I ask about STDs while doing a health survey.
The kastom part of a wedding starts at sundown. First there is food. The men don’t eat because you can’t drink kava on a full stomach (you puke) so the women and children get to eat first. The women congregate in a large room and sit on matts that are laying on top of a layer of dried coconut leaves. The coconut leaves give the matts a nice springiness, which is good since they are also the bed for the night. Once all the women are assembled, the fun begins.
The aunties of the woman who was married at the “women” for the evening and the aunties of the boy are the “men.” This is signified by skirts and pants.
The first round, the women aunties carry in a GIANT laplap and tell the men aunties that it is ready. The laplap is squishy and flat. The women eat it without using their hands, which means a solid faceplant. Now, imagine the jokes people make about newly weds and you start to understand what is going on. It is one innuendo that goes on and on. Once they have sufficiently eaten the laplap, it is set down on the floor and cut. The man aunties “help” the women aunties cut it by showing them how to hold the knife and how to stick it in the laplap. Eventually, it does get cut and shared out to everyone in the room.
The man aunties go back out and everyone relaxes for a few minutes while they prepare for the next round.
Round two is the more masculine side. The man aunties come in carrying green coconuts that have been husked which makes them look slightly hairy, lollipops and bottles of pop. The women aunties are all sitting on the floor, usually with legs straight out in front. One of the man aunties walks over to one of the women aunties and spreads her legs open. Then “he” drops a coconut in her lap. In other cases, like what happened to my PCV neighbor, Alexandra, “he” walks up to a woman and tells her to open her mouth. When she does, “he” puts a lollipop in it with the explanation, “Because I’m the man.” The same thing goes for the bottles of pop. So ends round two.
All the women go out and dance and party a bit before round three. The dancing here is more like swaying and less like the dancing you might imagine. Also, women dance with women, men drunkly stagger around the floor. There is very little gender mixing.
Round three starts by the “men” carrying in a “baby.” The one I was at was a doll, but I’ve been told it is traditionally a dressed up coconut. They give the baby to the women, with all the innuendo that implies. In Bislama, getting a woman pregnant is described as “giving her a baby.” Then, the woman has to feed the baby. In this case, she pretended to breastfeed, just holding the doll. One of the other women decided that wasn’t good enough. She plopped down next to the baby, pulls it over to her, whips out a boob and shoves it in the doll’s face. That proceeded to happen about four more times. There was a lot of boob.
After that, they did some things that I’m not clear on. I can’t follow the language well enough yet to get the verbal jokes or the explanations for things. All of this I got either through asking or because there are some jokes you don’t need words for.
The “men” left and left the “women” behind. I was told the “women” had to go look for their food. The “women” then became hens and started flapping their arms, squawking and kicking up the coconut leaves like a hen. I have no idea why they were doing it, but it was hilarious.
It was about midnight by that point and I was told that the barate was over. Alexandra and I went back to my house to sleep, since they dance until daylight here. We woke up at 7:30 am the next day to the sound of string band music and dancing. I’m glad we left when we did.