New Caledonia is definitely a real melting-pot of cultures. The Kanak culture is one of them. Discovering Kanak culture is always a genuine experience full of wonderful surprises and not to be missed !
The Kanak people are the native people of New Caledonia. They are the largest ethnic group in New Caledonia and have inhabited the archipelago for about 6,000 years, living in autonomous tribal communities in the narrow valleys between the mountains.
New Caledonia counts 341 tribes which perpetuate this ancestral way of life, living mainly off agriculture and fishing. Kanak culture is based on oral transmission, exchange, myths and animist legends, the traditions being the central axis of the culture that governs its social organization. This culture regroups its people in a traditional society founded on an organisation determined by the clans, with clearly defined relationships in terms of hierarchy. Men and women comply with established roles. Besides, the wisdom of their ancestors is always pre-eminent and their attachment to the land is strong.
The Tjibaou Cultural Centre, located only ten minutes from Noumea city, showcases the archeological and linguistic Kanak heritage and contributes to the continuing development of the culture today by providing support to various Kanak artistic initiatives (dance, songs, music...), houses art exhibitions, a museum, an auditorium and a library.
It features an imposing and resolutely modern style edifice, inspired by traditional Kanak architecture and is definitely worth the visit if you want to learn more about Kanak culture and history.
However, learning more about Kanak traditions is sometimes better when you experience it first-hand. Visiting a local village outside Noumea will allow you to truly immerse yourself in this ancient culture by seeing how the Kanak community live. These rural populations welcome visitors to the tribe throughout New Caledonia, from the Loyalty Islands to Hienghène (North Province) or Yaté (South Province). Kanak people are always happy to welcome the visitor and share the wealth of their traditions and history.
You can for example try a tour through the southern province of Sarraméa to visit local Kanak tribes and and hike into pristine mountains with fantastic views. Don’t miss the extraordinary Amborella Thricopoda - a 400-million year old plant with DNA so antiquated that it qualifies as a living fossil. Or, you can also visit the Loyalty Islands, in particular Lifou and the village of Xodre - the last tribal village in the Lössi District. Hike through the forest to discover traditional medicinal plants and see how locals hunt and gather their dinner! Later, head to the village of Mu, where you can watch the local Tanukul Tribe elders preparing the Bougna; a generations-old Kanak casserole recipe made with sliced root vegetables, yams and coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaf and cooked over hot stone. Yummy !