Ambae - History and Cultural Relations



On 23 May 1768, Louis de Bougainville became the first European to lead a landing party to the rocky shores of Ambae. He was dispatched back to his vessels with a volley of stones and arrows. Almost a century elapsed before other Europeans visited the island and, from first contact until independence in 1980, whites in the archipelago stereotyped Ambaeans as intractable and sometimes violent. Conversion to Christianity reached a peak in the 1930s. Most West Ambaeans joined the Church of Christ, a denomination that encouraged copra production but prohibited rank taking, kava drinking, and traditional forms of marriage and burial. Christianity and cash cropping coexist with customary practices in East Ambae, where Anglicans tolerant of many elements of the indigenous culture gained a majority of converts.

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