This extraordinary documentary series follows the fortunes of five delegates from the Kastam, a small tribe from the idyllic South Pacific island of Tanna, as they visit the UK. Having for so long been the subject for scrutiny and discussion, The Channel 4 series turns the tables and gives people who are still living in traditional, shamanic based cultures the chance to comment on our modern world.
And what an eye opener it is.
The five men, Yapa, Joel, JJ, Posen and Albi, visit a castle to stay with the aristocracy, get to grips with pig farming in Northumberland and spend time with a family on a housing estate in Manchester. They are warm, loving and totally open to throwing themselves into every new experience, even if what they meet makes no sense in their world.
On the pig farm, they are perturbed that the female sows are impregnated but not satisfied by the process of artificial insemination, which in their view goes against the natural order of things. They are bewildered by the barbaric man traps enthusiastically demonstrated by the Lord in his Castle and draw analogies between the pub and their own “nakamal”, or village meeting place where everyone gathers to tell drink cava and tell stories, except that they fear the stories we tell can’t be heard above the noise in the bar.
There are so many moments to comment on in this amazing series, not least the genuinely heartbreaking moment when the tribe first come across someone who is homeless as they cannot understand how someone could be abandoned by their own community in this way, especially when they are surrounded by empty buildings.
The five visitors have their own mission. They believe that Tanna and Britain were once one country that was split in two, and that Prince Phillip is a God in human form and their spiritual leader. A Chief, sent as part of the delegation, has been tasked to meet the Prince ask him to return home to fulfil a prophecy that says that when he does, the country will enjoy an amazing abundance of wealth and prosperity.
Miraculously, every step they take brings them further to meeting the Prince himself, including a prayer ritual executed in their tribal dress from the balcony of their apartment overlooking the docklands at night. You can call it the magic of television, or the magic of intention. It doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that the five are granted a private address with the Prince. We don’t get to see what happens behind closed doors, but it is enough to mean that the chief can return having accomplished his mission and can share the news with the tribe that sings and dances their welcome home.
You can still watch this series on Channel 4 iPlayer and I urge you to do so. There is also an American version aired through the Travel Channel. You can’t fail to be touched by the amazing beauty and dignity of these incredible people. The visitors set out to bring their message of peace, love and harmony to us and more than succeeded. The irony is how clear it is to us on watching that the Kastam already have a wealth of abundance of spirit that we have lost amidst our modern world and that many of us are striving to recapture as a result. Their belief that we are one split in two and that we need to reunite to transform the world we live in holds true, but it has less to do with any geographical divide and more to do with the spirit of community that we have lost in many places and to which they still hold the key.
Loads of love,
Find the series on 40d
Meet the Natives America (Travel Channel)
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