This new 110 XPF stamp issue, designed by Kanak artist Paula Boi-Gony, is the first of a series that OPT-NC will be devoting, over the next four years, to Melanesian traditions and, more specifically, to the yam farming cycles.
Revered by the Kanak people as a sacred plant, yams (Dioscorea alata) are the source of all life. Symbolically equated with males, yams represent both the clan’s ancestor growing in the soil and the power of the paternal clan. Yams are not only a staple food but also, importantly, the focus for gifts and customary exchanges, an endorsement of alliances and of the spoken word. The yam farming cycle governs the life of each Kanak clan and determines the celebration of major events.
The first yam farming cycle or "Maxat" begins in the cool season, from May to July, when reeds flower in the mountains and rivers and the humpback whales make their appearance in New Caledonia's lagoon, blowing and thumping the water with their tails, the signal that it is time to prepare the fields. This is the season for deciding on the plots of land to be cultivated, for clearing, weeding, burning and ploughing the land and harvesting the majority of the previous year's crop.
Then follows the "Horat" cycle, from August to October, when the tubers are planted in the earth and begin to sprout, then the "Wênit" cycle, from November to January, when the yams are staked and the fields are weeded and tidied and, finally, the "Kuyiuk huuda" cycle from February to April, marked by a festival to celebrate the harvesting of the first new yams, ceremonially presented to clan chiefs and ancestors.