The Vanuatu Cultural Centre is a statutory body under the laws of Vanuatu whose primary function is “to support, encourage and make provisions for the preservation, protection and development of various aspects of the cultural heritage of Vanuatu”. In practice, the principle role of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre since its establishment in the 1960s, has been to document and record the culture and cultural history of Vanuatu. This has been done by the Cultural Centre staff and a network of approximately 60 volunteer field workers throughout the islands of Vanuatu.
The main focus of our documentation efforts are details of remembered histories and traditions (the latter are also called legends), details of ritual practices, classification systems and languages., details of cultural landscapes and particularly sites of cultural significance, and records of contemporary events of historical and cultural significance. The latter (which is essentially history-in-making) is recorded on video; examples of (usually ritual) material are collected for musicological display, but amongst everything else is documented on audio tape. his is because indigenous cultures are oral and therefore all our cultural knowledge is retained and transmitted orally.
Apart from its oral nature, the other commonalities with all the material we document are the parts of it are owned in much the the same fashion as modern patents are held, and access to the material is restricted in often complex system to certain engendered individuals, family groups, or larger cultural groups. This documented knowledge is held by the Cultural Centre and has been used as source material for the revival of certain traditional cultural practices no longer being practiced.