Prince Phillip: Vanautu tribes wey dey mourn di death of dia ‘god’

Village elder from Tanna island hold a picture of Britain Prince Philip wia dem dey worship in Yaohnanen, Vanuatu 6 May 2017


As Britain pipo dey mourn di death of Prince Philip, one tribal community for di Pacific island wey dey half di world away follow dem dey mourn.

For many years, two villages on the Vanuatuan island of Tanna don worship di Duke of Edinburgh as god-like spiritual figure.

Di villagers don start formal period of mourning.

On Monday, plenty of di tribes pipo bin gada for one ceremony to remember Prince Philip.

Di tribal leader Chief Yapa say, di connection between di pipo on di Island and di English pipo, dey very strong and dem don send dia condolence message give di Queen.

Anthropologist Kirk Huffman wey don dey study di tribes since di 1970’s say for di next few weeks, villagers go dey meet periodically to conduct rites for di duke, wey dem see as di descendant of one very powerful spirit or god wey dey live on one of dia mountains.

Foto of Prince Philip and di Queen for one 1970s visit to di New Hebrides

Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth, for di front row, dey watch traditional ceremonies on Pentecost Island for New Hebrides

How dem go do di ceremony?

Di ceremony go likely start wit ritualistic dance, dem go hold procession, and show fotos of di memory of Prince Philip. Di men go drink kava, one ceremonial drink wey dem use di roots of kava plant do.

Important meeting go hold as final act of mourning. “Dem go show dia wealth” wey mean say dem go display yams and kava plants, Vanuatu-based journalist Dan McGarry tok.” Plenty pigs also go dey as pigs na di primary source of protein. Dem go kill plenty pigs for di ceremonial event.

For di meeting wey hold on Monday, plenty of di tribal pipo bin gada under di giant banyan trees and dem tok about Prince Philip and who go take over from am.

How di worship of Prince Philip by di tribal community take start

Di worship of Philip by di pipo on Tanna Island, Vanuatu, start from one local legend about di pale-skinned son of one local mountain god wey travel across di seas to find a rich and powerful woman to marry.

Di villagers believe say Tanna na where di world take start and dia work na to promote peace for di world – and dis na where Prince Philip get work to do.

Over time, di villagers believe say Prince Phillip be one of dem – di fulfilment of a prophecy say one tribesman wey comot di island, for im original spiritual form, go find powerful wife overseas, oga Huffman tok.

“Ruling di UK wit di help of di Queen go try bring peace and respect for tradition to England and oda parts of di world. If e dey successful, den e go return to Tanna – but one tin wey dey stop am as dem see am na white pipo stupidity, jealousy, greed and perpetual fighting.”

Wit im “mission to literally plant di seed of Tanna kastom for di heart of di Commonwealth and empire”, dem see di duke as di living embodiment of dia culture, oga McGarry tok.

The Duke of Edinburgh

Dem see Prince Philip as di embodiment of Tanna “kastom”

Wetin di Prince think about all dis?

For public, e appear to accept dia worship. e send plenty letters and fotos of imself to di tribesmen, wey in turn send am plenty traditional gifts over di years. One of dia first presents na one ceremonial club dem call nal-nal, wey dem give am for 1978 wen di villagers do meeting to ask for more informate about Prince Philip, wey oga Huffman attend.

Di fotos and oda tins wey im send be like treasure to dem till now.

For 2007, several tribesmen bin meet di duke in person. den travel go UK for one reality television series Meet the Natives, five tribal leaders meet wit di duke for Windsor Castle where dem present am wit gifts and ask wen e go come back Tanna.

E reply dem say wen e dey warm, according to wetin di tribesmen tok.

Ikunala village Chief Yapa hold foto of himself and four other local men wit Britain Prince Philip

Chief Yapa na one of several tribesmen wey meet Prince Philip for Britain in 2007 and take foto with am

Di son go continue im papa mission?

Di death of di duke don open up di tricky question of who go take im place for di tribes’ spiritual temple.

Discussions don dey go on and e fit take some time before dem decide on im successor.

But for observers wey dey familiar wit Vanuatu, where tribal custom dey supreme as di male pikin na im dey inherit di title, dem fit tok say e don leave am for Charles to continue im mission, oga Huffman tok.

Even if Prince Charles become di next, di latest embodiment of their deity, dem no go forget Prince Philip any time soon. Oga Huffman say di movement go likely keep im name, and one tribesman tell am say dem dey consider to start political party.

But more importantly, “dem believe say Prince Philip go return some day, either in pesin or in spiritual form”, oga Mr Huffman, e add join say some of dem tink say im death go finally trigger dis eventuality.

And so, as di Duke of Edinburgh dey lie in rest for Windsor Castle, dem believe say im soul dey make im final journey across di waves of di Pacific Ocean to im spiritual home, di island of Tanna – to stay wit dos wey loved and honour am from afar all these years.