Along the Santo Mountain Chain in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu, the Canal Studio Association is working with three communities on a project called “Songs and Stories of Biodiversity”.
This project is focusing on conservation efforts for threatened species found in Vanuatu: the Vanuatu Flying-fox, Vanuatu Megapode, Santo Mountain Starling, Palm Lorikeet, Vanuatu Imperial Pigeon, Royal Parrot finch, Santa Cruz Ground-dove and the Voutmele Palm.
Canal Studio’s strengths lie in traditional cultural expression, festival and event production and local community mobility. Therefore, the Association is focusing on inspiring traditional cultural expressions (songs, stories, dance, and arts) as vehicles for promoting conservation of biodiversity by targeting these threatened species.
The project team visited one of the communities, Pesena, in late 2014, with the objective of documenting songs and stories that exist in the community, and to raise awareness about the threatened species, their significance, and current conservation efforts. Some members of Pesena village were unaware of the critical need to protect these threatened species.
Kastom songs and stories were shared by the elders and Chief of the village telling the story of the first yam that came to Pesena. In particular, one man, Metar Jen, a carver, artist and farmer, demonstrated his knowledge and experience of traditional resource management in his village. Interestingly, Metar has maintained some traditional songs about growing taro on water-taro patches. According to Metar, by singing while planting, the taro texture, taste, colour and size are better than those planted conventionally: "I value my traditional knowledge on conservation practices passed on from my ancestors" he declared.