Female Chiefs of Maewo Expedition
Our expedition will travel to Maewo in August 2016, when the Female Chiefs will be assembling together in a rare summit meeting on Maewo. We will be there to interview and document the Female Chiefs. We will explore what their authority and powers are, how their influence differs from male chiefs, and what their ceremonies and grade structure are. The expedition will publish its findings in popular and academic journals and media outlets in Vanuatu, Australia and the US and preserve their culture for generations to come.
This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of self-empowered women and the influence they have on their community.
We appreciate your intellectual interest and financial support in helping raise awareness of the important work of the Female Chiefs of Maewo!
Meet our Expedition Team (and background information available on their website links):
Lew Toulmin, Ph.D., F.R.G.S. - www.themosttraveled.com
Dalsie Baniala - www.trr.vu
Theresa Menders - www.huangmenders.com
Daniel Huang - www.huangmenders.com
Capt. Sophie Hollingsworth - www.aquaaid-international.org
Michael Wyrick -
Oliver Hartman -
Most people have never heard of the Republic of Vanuatu, the island of Maewo, or the idea that there are female chiefs anywhere in the South Pacific. That is what makes this expedition unique -- a true “first” -- since the expedition’s purpose is to document and celebrate the almost unknown female chiefs on the island of Maewo, in northern Vanuatu, an independent country in the southwest Pacific.
Vanuatu is a country of 250,000 people, on 80 volcanic islands, spread over 600 miles in a large “Y” shape, west of Fiji. The country is a member of the United Nations, a parliamentary democracy, and was known until its independence in 1980 as the New Hebrides.
Maewo is a long, narrow island, with four languages and a population of about 3600 living in small villages. Of these people, about 150 are female chiefs – likely the only female chiefs in Melanesia, Polynesia and Micronesia.
The female chiefs have never been before been interviewed, documented or written up in any popular or academic publication. It is not known what their jurisdiction or powers are, what the difference is between the female and the male chiefs on Maewo, or what their ceremonies and grade structure is. Their existence is almost unknown even in Vanuatu. The expedition will interview as many female chiefs as possible, and will publish its findings in popular and academic journals in Vanuatu, Australia and the US. Extensive recordings will document the interviews and ceremonies.
Expedition members include a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and several members of The Explorers Club. The effort has been carefully reviewed and endorsed by the Club, and the expedition will be allowed to carry the Club’s prestigious flag. (See www.explorers.org )
The total budget for our expedition is $28,000. We have no outside assistance at all. Our goals are to tell the stories of the Female Chiefs and to document their culture, practices and languages. If we can raise the entire budget we will secure a linguistics expert to begin studying the 4 or more languages spoken by the female chiefs. Amazingly, at present only 1 of these languages has any written materials of any kind and want to bring this story to you and preserve it for future generations.
The following is the expedition's expected budget including travel, supplies, government fees and logistics to perform in-country research during the Female Chiefs gathering in August 2016.
Category Units Unit Cost Total Cost
Required Fees to Govt. 1 1,500 1,500
Airfares to Vanuatu 6 2,500 15,000
In-country travel to Maewo 6 400 2,400
Prof. Linguistics Costs 1 5,000 5,000
Supplies 1 500 500
Lodging and Food 30 75 2,250
Audio-visual costs 1 1,000 1,000
Publishing costs 1 500 500 -----------
We hope that you will be able to assist us with our effort, so the world can learn about the remarkable Female Chiefs of Maewo. Thank you!
YES, we are back in the US and are busy writing up our findings and experiences. We have submitted an article to the national magazine of Vanuatu, "Island Life" (www.islandlifemag.com), and we hope that will come out in the next few months. We are also working on an academic article, and our Expedition has already been written up in the "Vanuatu Daily Post." (See http://dailypost.vu/…/article_3ec8f066-e926-5997-bb6e-d3da) Our findings can be briefly summarized as follows: A. On Maewo we were able to document cultural aspects of the life of the Notari (women cultural leaders). But in general these Notari do not wish to be publicly called "female chiefs" since they feel the term "chief" is reserved for men. B. On other islands, however, such as Pentecost, Efate, Pele and Ambae, we were able to find strong evidence of "female chiefs," and were even able to interview some of these remarkable women, including the lady who is probably the highest ranking female chief in the country! So we feel we achieved our goals, and look forward to sharing our detailed findings with you and the world. We want to give a big thank you to the Notari of Maewo and to the Female Chiefs and many other persons of Vanuatu who welcomed us and shared their fascinating stories with us. And many thanks to you for your interest in this unusual topic -- and of course MAXIMUM thanks to those kind individuals who donated to our effort. We really appreciate it! Keep watching this space for further updates and links to publications, photos, videos, etc. as they come out. Daniel Huang and Theresa Menders have already posted some pics from Maewo on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/p/BKM9gKXg7fw/?taken-by=huangmendersphoto I invite you to check those out and follow their site. Also learn about "taboos" and NOT taboos in the South Pacific and Vanuatu, from Capt. Sophie Hollingsworth at her fascinating, on-going and globe-girdling blog: http://www.thesofialog.com/single-post/2016/09/21/TABOO-OR-NOT-TABOO. Finally, I will be writing up our findings and including our Expedition Flag Report on my website www.themosttraveled.com, and of course will be writing some travel/adventure columns for The Montgomery Sentinel of Maryland about our new friends, the "Female Chiefs of Vanuatu." Enjoy! Cheers, Lew Toulmin, Ph.D., F.R.G.S. Expedition Leader Silver Spring, Maryland
Excited and honored to be a member of this Expedition Team. We'll be there in August when the Female Chiefs gather in Maewo.