Kanak culture is based on oral transmission, exchange, myths and animist legends, the traditions being the central axis of the culture that governs its social organization.
The stamp of Kanak culture is present throughout and expressed in numerous art forms.
Each individual is foremost a member of his tribe in which the elders, have a prominent place. Individual ownership does not exist. The land belongs to everyone, and the law of covenants governs sharing.
The yam cultivation gives rhythm to the life of the clan, the growing of this tuber, a sacred foodstuff, given as a gift at major community celebrations: weddings, induction ceremonies ...
The storytelling tradition is still strong. Indeed, if French is the common official language, there are twenty-eight dialectal languages in the archipelago, five of which have obtained the status of regional language, the most widely spoken being "nengoné" in the island of Maré, the "drehu" in Lifou, and "paicî" in the region Poindimié on the East Coast.
The Kanak culture has experienced a renaissance in the 1970s in the wake of the surfacing of the first identity-based movements.
Cultural expression takes many forms, but wood carving, especially of " houp " wood is probably one of the most symbolic and is recognized all over the world. Totem poles, masks, carved doorjambs or doorposts, or the “flèches faîtières” arrows (a wooden sculpture that decorated the roof of major ceremonial houses, and embodied the founding ancestor of a clan.)... contemporary sculpture carries the mark of beliefs of the traditional tribal society, but also reflects the realities of today's society. These works are often representations of humans with a stylized body and a very expressive face.
Basketry is also a craft practiced mostly by the women in the tribes, around objects used in everyday live.
In Noumea, the majestic Tjibaou Cultural Center, designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano and opened in 1998, is the landmark of the Kanak culture and its soul.
The “Broussards", descendants of pioneers, have forged a mixed identity, which gave birth to a lifestyle influenced by Australia, Melanesia and Europe.
In the oldest districts of Noumea, old wooden houses with colourful facades, the Hagen castle or the beautiful Célière House in the Vallée des Colons (Settlers Valley), recently restored, evoke the charm of the colonial era, while in the interior of the island, the " broussards” live primarily an outdoor life in the open, where cattle, horses and nature dominate. A lifestyle that is relatively independent, where solidarity and creativity can soften the hardships of daily life and with important gatherings for agricultural fairs where the broussards’ skills are highlighted.
In the brousse, as in Noumea, cultural and festive activities will remind you of the eclectic group of people living together.
Thus, if you happen to be there on such dates, you can celebrate for example the Chinese New Year with the Vietnamese community, "Eid" marking the end of Ramadan with the Indonesian community, or attend a Wallis party in the rhythm of dances from around the Pacific. Wallis and Futuna community are also significant, and are very active in the local associations.
Religion here remains a strong component of individual identity, particularly in the Pacific communities. Some mystical thought continues, but the Christian religion is dominant - a legacy of the era of missionaries - often Catholic, but also Protestant or Pentecostal.
The Caledonians dance to the rhythms of music from all over the world, with a penchant for reggae, which inspired the local musical style, kaneka.
This music, born in the 1980s, reproduces the binary pilou beat, the traditional Kanak dance, practiced during tribal ceremonies. The many local groups are much appreciated.
However, country music - as a nostalgic memory of the passage of the Americans - and the Tahitian waltz, which is danced in pairs, are also classics of the Caledonian "play-list".
Benefiting from the sea, mountain and sun, sport is deeply rooted in the Caledonian society. Football is king in the stadia as it is in the privacy of the tribe, where a local version of cricket is also practiced, played mostly by women, again legacy of missionaries.
New Caledonia participates every four years in the Pacific Games, a sort of Olympics across the region that brings together twenty-two territories and countries of Oceania. New Caledonia has been the winner in these competitions eleven times in thirteen of the games, thanks to its rich multi-ethnicity.