A historical and cultural melting pot in New Caledonia


New CaledoniaCultural Heritage

S. Ducandas / Destination Iles Loyauté
© S. Ducandas / Destination Iles Loyauté

Reading time: 0 minPublished on 4 January 2023, updated on 16 April 2024

No doubt there were more than three hundred Kanak clans before the explorer James Cook arrived in 1774, but it was he who changed the name of the island in homage to Scotland. The New Caledonian archipelago is situated in the heart of the southern Pacific and spans 500 kilometres. It is made up of the ‘Grande Terre’, the Belep Islands, the Pins Islands and the Loyauté Islands.

Very rapidly coming under French protection, New Caledonia remained an important maritime stopover. Part of its territory adopted an Australian model of cattle-rearing, in which large herds were driven by mounted stockmen.

Countless petroglyphs: rock carvings with symbolic and geometric patterns have been found, particularly beside Poya. These reveal that the Melanesians had been there for a very long time. Don’t miss the New Caledonian Museum which displays the most beautiful Melanesian art. New Caledonia is also a land of ancestral culture, where customs move to the rhythm of social and festive relations.

The country’s economy is flourishing especially thanks to the exploitation of nickel, a material in abundance in its land as well as its tourism.

Of course, New Caledonia, like the majority of the islands, benefits from the generosity of the ocean. In light of this, tuna, caught in the ocean, is not only a local market staple but also an export of paramount importance.

To see:

The Tjibaou Cultural Centre in Nouméa. Designed by Renzo Piano and inspired by Melanesian Great Houses, the centre traces the Kanak culture and customs, as well as explaining the Kanak myth of the creation of the first man on earth. Warm moments can be shared listening to legends and tasting the delicious cuisine. With spectacular architecture, by Renzo Piano, this cultural centre strongly emphasises the Kanak civilisation. Inescapable evidence of the past and the future of New Caledonia.

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