as Ahia climbed the tree-and-vine tower. Reaching a point 50 feet above the ground, he stepped onto a short platform and stood silhouetted against the sky.
Around me, the people of Bunlap and surrounding settlements stamped their feet in the dirt, raising a choking cloud of dust, and chanted a forceful song to encourage the young man high above them.
Ahia lifted his feetóboth ankles bound by lianas, or vinesóover two crossbars on the platform, and stood poised at the edge. He steadied himself for a moment by touching another platform near his head.
Then, with his gaze fixed on the horizon, he pulled a few croton leaves from his belt and released them. As they drifted to earth, he raised one hand over his head, a sign that he wished to speak. Immediately the singing and stomping ceased.
Ahia's speech concerned a tusker pig he had recently bought at an exorbitant price. The subject seemed a curious one, but it befitted the place and circumstances. For we were in a remote corner of the New Hebrides island of Pentecost, where tusker pigs represent wealth, and I was photographing an impressive spectacle: an authentic land dive seldom witnessed by outsiders.