The Kunies’ isolation no doubt accounts for their prowess as seafarers and cultivators of root vegetables. Both these occupations give rise to their traditional art and customs.

The large, heavy yam (l'igname) is the focus of Kunie custom and pivot point of their calendar. It signifies the community, sharing, life, man and the fruits of his labour. It is exchanged at special feasts and is a standard wedding gift and bereavement offering. All the islanders participate in planting it in September/October. Then the first harvest, in March, is marked by its benediction and the year’s most important customary rituals.

Wooden outriggers (pirogues) with elegant, triangular sails are still built on the Isle of Pines and used for fishing and tourism. In fact the island is the only place in New Caledonia where such construction flourishes.

Kunie know-how is also evident in the building of their traditional thatched huts with their astonishing, umbrella-style roofs.Such activities reinforce the values and mutual help of the tribal system.


Isle of Pines’ tradition of legends is often translated into song and dance performed on tribal festive occasions or when a cruise ship is in port. Several dance groups exist.


Their costumes vary, but they all paint their bodies and dress themselves with dried ferns and pandanus or coconut leaves, and dance to a beating rhythm, accompanied by a chorus of women wearing colourful ‘mission dresses’.

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