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Tristan da Cunha Okalolies 2006

Janice Hentley


The Okalolies of Tristan da Cunha, Old Year's Night 2006/07

Tristan da Cunha Okalolies, The Okalolies approach up the steps of the Residency Garden.
The Okalolies approach up the steps of the Residency Garden.
They all brought bunches of flowers which they presented to the hostess. (She found later that they had been picked from her own garden!) Note the Hydrangea blooms attached to their sticks.
Tristan da Cunha Okalolies, A close-up - no wonder the kids are scared!
A close-up - no wonder the kids are scared!
Tristan da Cunha Okalolies, A group photo, with the volcano brooding in the background.
A group photo, with the volcano brooding in the background.

Tristan da Cunha, the volcanic island in the South Atlantic, is home to the remotest mumming custom in the world. On Old Year's Night (New Year's Eve), the island men disguise themselves in weird costumes and masks, and spend the night visiting the houses in the settlement, scaring the women and children. They make general whoopee, but take care never to utter a word so as not to give away their identities. They even wear gloves, in case anyone can recognise them by their hands.

The custom has a long history, being mentioned in some of the earliest books about life on the island, although it has evolved over the years. Visitors have tended to use the names they were familiar with in their home countries - mummers or guisers - but among themselves, the islanders call them 'Okalolies', a unique name of uncertain origin. With outsiders, the Tristanians may call them 'Green Men', a term bound to raise the eyebrows of any folklorist.

Nowadays, it is traditional for the Government Administrator to host an evening reception for the Island men, which is held in the Residency Garden if the weather is fine – as it was this year. The photographs here were taken at the reception on Old Year’s Night 2006/07.

Peter Millington

With thanks to Mike Hentley, Tristan da Cunha Government Administrator, and
Richard Grundy, Manager of tristandc.com & Tristan da Cunha Newsletter Editor


The recommended URL for this web page is www.folkplay.info/Gallery/Tristan2006.htm