While working on Tanna island on the story about John Frum Cargo Cult I found some interesting details about this unique religious movement.
For those who don’t know – John Frum is a mythological person, depicted as a black American soldier (in some legends he was a white man). He appeared in the end of 1930th on Tanna and told the islanders to go back to their old traditions and start to live in “custom”. In exchange for this all locals would receive “cargo” – material wealth from the Western World. Locals started to believe that the cargo was destined to them by their ancestors, but crafty Western people unfairly took possession of it. Before leaving Tanna, Frum promised to local chiefs that he would come back and bring cargo to the islanders. Chiefs know the exact day – 15th of February – but not the year.
Every Friday night in Sulfur Bay and Lamakara villages, followers of cargo cult gather in main squares to sing songs and play guitars. Their songs about desired “cargo”, John Frum and… his apostles. Few decades have passed after his first appearance on Tanna and John “received” new friends, some kind of saints, who help locals to communicate with their Messiah.
Actually, they are not truly saints. They are much better. They are cowboys! As John was from America (that’s probably how he got his surname “Frum”), his friends also had to have an American spirit.
Western films heroes Jimmy Cowboy, Jerry Cowboy, Johnson, Cael, Billy, Steven and other cowboys in prayers connect islanders with John Frum. Calling their spirits, people from Tanna send messages to John, asking him to come back soon, bring “cargo” and take all his followers to the heaven.
I once attended the Friday night-prayer” and recored a song about Jimmy Cowboy, called “Iau Jimmy-Jimmy Kauboy”.
Here it is:
Later I asked one of the local women to translate me this song from Narak (language of Eastern Tanna) into English.
See below the original text with the English translation.
Iau Jimmy-Jimmy Kauboy
I’m Jimmy-Jimmy Cowboy
Nouakir kotameig, nouakir kotameig
Soon we all rest, soon we all rest
John will come down
Mit e taha kotaliwak
And take all of us
Magatun ben Wol ue u
to the New World,
Wol ue u, Ia nikeg flaua.
New World inside the flower.
Isn’t it beautiful? By the way, the translation is not very clear, but from the words of villagers I understood that the New World with “cargo” won’t be actually inside the flower, it will be at the place full of flowers. To get there, the people of Tana have only to await the Second Coming of John. This year, unfortunately, he didn’t appear. Maybe in 2013?