Sande < > Sunday by Charlotte Haywood

Preparing for the new Ni-Vanuatu cabinet to be summoned in by the higher institutions. 

Meeting the entire Ni-Vanuatu cabinet, including Prime Minister Joe Natuman and very amenable Minister for Lands, Ralph Regenvanu.  Whom we later are able to have a personable Q&A with.  Thanks for your island time Ralph.

Meeting the entire Ni-Vanuatu cabinet, including Prime Minister Joe Natuman and very amenable Minister for Lands, Ralph Regenvanu.  Whom we later are able to have a personable Q&A with.  Thanks for your island time Ralph.

Oh how I love a Pacific Island A-frame. It appears as a meeting house for both the church and the village Chiefs as a Nakamal.

Oh how I love a Pacific Island A-frame. It appears as a meeting house for both the church and the village Chiefs as a Nakamal.

.......Meanwhile across the road

.......Meanwhile across the road

Lagoon view from Lagoon Beach 

Lagoon view from Lagoon Beach 

Our night arrival welcomed us with a verdant vespertine smell of the pacific. Daytime the aroma is fused with acrid plastic burning. Us midnight arrivals being greeted by an energetic local band. The female bass player, in her mother hubbard floral dress, straddles her bush bass, large wooden box and single stringed, contolled by the flexing of the string on it's neck or pole. The band quickly finishes as we pass them, the last of the night.

Next morning, our first day, and we are greeted with the lush green and lagoon. An afternoon reconnaissance, meeting all our other collaborators and a Church visit, welcoming in the new Vanuatu Cabinet. It is a quick way to become acquainted with our peers, under the watchful eyes of the higher powers, embraced by fervent songs of the Church and Bislama, the local version of Pijin. 

I always find it fascinating how embraced the Church is, yet remains entwined or parallel to tribal and Kastom ways.

In the evening, the group meets and we learn of each other projects. They are all interesting. I am drawn to Jeremy's concerns of ocean plastics and Amanda's ideas of non-communicable diseases due to introduced food customs, returning to more traditional foods.  Both these ideas touch on concepts of the intersection of nature and cultures, of which I am basing my project.

My interest is looking at local kastoms and narratives, and how these evolve and can be intersected.  I am intrigued in how the landscape shares it's self within these stories and if introduced materials in the landscape, such as plastics play on the mind of Ni- Vanuatu.  I am also very interested in the role of women in these kastoms, and how the status of women can be elevated through kastom practice. I am also curious to see how Ni-Vanuatu artists create contemporary works using traditional methods, or how does the art and craft of Vanuatu translate now. 

 

Mande < > Monday by Charlotte Haywood

Inside the WWI and WWII museum, relics left over from the troops. Amazing the cultural links these antiquities have offering a different landscape full of other possibilities. Cargo cults and commodities!

Inside the WWI and WWII museum, relics left over from the troops. Amazing the cultural links these antiquities have offering a different landscape full of other possibilities. Cargo cults and commodities!

The Americans brought everything. Especially Coca-Cola.

The Americans brought everything. Especially Coca-Cola.

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WWII museum view
American Rope is a vine that is thought to be introduced during WWII for camouflage. It is now vigorously covering very large sections of natural vegetation and turns the landscape into something out of Dr. Seuss.

American Rope is a vine that is thought to be introduced during WWII for camouflage. It is now vigorously covering very large sections of natural vegetation and turns the landscape into something out of Dr. Seuss.

A beautiful example of the intersection of cultures- Kookaburra Vanuatu style.

A beautiful example of the intersection of cultures- Kookaburra Vanuatu style.

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Corrugated and sand.

Corrugated and sand.

Motifs in the landscape. Traditional materials, bamboo, pandanus leaf and coconut palm.

Motifs in the landscape. Traditional materials, bamboo, pandanus leaf and coconut palm.

Blue Lagoon.

Blue Lagoon.

Round trip on Efate. A day on the road circumnavigating. Crystal clear blue lagoons, snorkelling in paradise and lunch at Eton beach, hot springs, Rich green jungle landscapes, Eton school visit and a World War Museum complete with relic soldier commodities.

I found inspiration and connection at the school and whilst snorkelling at Eton. The children at the school sung vigorously, tales of a lollypop tree and their times tables. Amongst the classrooms their work was strung from ceiling to wall. Amanda and I came across a school project of what different age groups diets included. We discussed the idea of implementing school kitchen gardens. I was enamoured with the images of the kookaburras decorated in Ni-Vanuatu motifs, culture clash.

Jeremy and I had a good snorkel around Eton beach, my knowledge of fish names is not exquisite but there was an array of coloured reef fish speckled amongst the swell of the protected inlet.  Good example of a large table coral, although most of the reef appeared to be bleached.  

I also became more aware of the cargo cults. Again bizarrely fascinating. Did I somehow see some collation between them and the church, offering some kind of alternative? Salvation?  Or desire to believe? Of promises given? 

 

Tunde < > Tuesday by Charlotte Haywood

Edgar

Edgar

Sand-droing

Sand-droing

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This sand droing motif means. "I'll be back!" - This message was to become a poignant symbol in communicating with  the very inspiring Edgar.

This sand droing motif means. "I'll be back!" - This message was to become a poignant symbol in communicating with  the very inspiring Edgar.

Lunch....

Lunch....

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Our visit to the Cultural Museum inspired us all. Witnessing Edgar perform his sand-droing, tell age old stories with his softly resonating voice, play a simple bamboo flute with velvetty refinement and coerce us with his soft shuffling of feet wearing his percussive seed anklets, I was captured by his humbling grace, knowledge and poetic spoken imagery. I believe we were all greatly moved. I would have to digest that further, but he had captured us all. He was a link deep into Ni-Vanuatu culture.

The Secret Garden held a wealth of information and varied at that. Kastom medicinal plants, creation stories, canoe boat making, kava drinking, cannibalism, magic, missionaries, coconut crabs, bats, iguanas. Really, a multi-faceted place, yes it held secrets and answers and questions.

Our guide demonstrated his own questioning to the information held within the garden- If Adam and Eve were created naked and there was nothing wrong with it, why then when the missionaries arrived did the Ni-Vanuatu appear so naked? Amazing how he answered his own question, of how the missionaries showed them their own nakedness in reflection to the missioinaries. Poignant.

I became interested  in photos that had a western woman of the early 1900's appear in them, wife of an ethnographer? . The contrast of that woman with the local women. I was intrigued by both.

I was absorbing it all. That night Jeremy, Amanda and I plotted. Collaboration was in the making. Our conversations were beginning to overlap and so were our ideas. We were noticing the foreigner in the landscape, the introduced..... "the unwelcome guests".

All inspired by Edgar, how could he and his wisdom be the thread that bound our ideas? Would he join us in collaboration?

Reference
Bakeo, R. Qarani, F (nd) "The Unwelcome Guests. Proceedings of the Asia-Pacific forest invasive species Conference." Department of Forests, Department of Quarantine. FAO, Regional Office for Asian and the Pacific. Retrieved Jul 29, 2014  http://www.fao.org/docrep/008/ae944e/ae944e0a.htm 

 

Trinde < > Wednesday by Charlotte Haywood

Phil's abode.

Phil's abode.

Lennox smitten at the watermelon farm.

Lennox smitten at the watermelon farm.

Seaside vegetation crossover.

Seaside vegetation crossover.

Volcanic verse vegetation.

Volcanic verse vegetation.

Jeremy angle traverses, very close to the sun!

Jeremy angle traverses, very close to the sun!

Grey concrete verses grey palm trunk.

Grey concrete verses grey palm trunk.

Everybody has their own perspective......

Everybody has their own perspective......

......and own looking glass.

......and own looking glass.

Breakfast Q & A with Ralph Regenvanu was invigorating. The relaxed environment or the island way made the discussion candid and real. He spoke openly about issues that were pertinent to us all. Gracing us with his time and insight. I became aware with a question I had for him about women's status improving due to a campaign implemented by the Cultural Museum and Womens Council, that it had most likely occurred at the time when he was the director at the Museum. Mucho respect. The campaign had a slogan of "women have kastom too" equalling women's role in kastom to that of their male counterpart.  I found this so intriguing, of empowering women through traditional values in contemporary society.

Our trip to the organic farm, watermelon farm, lunch, deserted resort began to cement collaborations.  Landscapes were crossed and cultures too. Stepping into our lunch spot, we saw how the other half dined. It wasn't the cruise shippers, it was the upper eschalence of white linen, transparent floaty dresses and furrowed brows. They did not exude the happiness of the local Ni-Vanuatu, the happiest people on the planet. Nor did they notice that local missionary enthused custom had deployed modest clothing to cover up one's nakedness.

Jeremy, Amanda and my discussions furthered throughout the day. Communication became a key. We wanted a translatable communication medium, sand droing was becoming a significant player in describing the introduced and the detriment caused, symbolised by plastics in the landscape. Was it possible for Edgar to create a new narrative in sand-droing that represented this? We were to meet with him at 2pm on Pikanini day, a public holiday, but due to the large cruise ship due in that day establishments were to remain open part of the day.

Vanuatu has after PNG the highest amount of languages per capita. Due to this nature and the expanse of the Islands other forms of communication were needed. As Edgar had explained first came smoke then came sand-droing.

Fonde < > Thursday by Charlotte Haywood

Palm frond baskets, plastic bag. Port Vila markets

Palm frond baskets, plastic bag. Port Vila markets

Oberon and the large expensive watermelons ($8-$14)

Oberon and the large expensive watermelons ($8-$14)

Pikanini day bound

Pikanini day bound

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Save the Children

Save the Children

Car park culture clash

Car park culture clash

Lunch at the markets, the azure waters always calling.

Lunch at the markets, the azure waters always calling.

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Pikanini day celebrating

Pikanini day celebrating

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Banyan tree canopy

Banyan tree canopy

We missed Edgar. He left at midday and we had thought 2 pm.  Our message to him, 'We will be back' sand droing motif

We missed Edgar. He left at midday and we had thought 2 pm.  Our message to him, 'We will be back' sand droing motif

The ships in!

The ships in!

Pikanini Day! (best word) The country is on holiday to celebrate children, it's like Christmas and your birthday all rolled into one. It was being celebrated at various locations and since I have two of my own, we bee lined to Freshwater park. The Prime Minister was there talking of the importance of Children's health and various community aid stalls, Unicef, Save the Children and general health and information stands were set up. Amanda and Jeremy joined in on the celebrations.

Into town for great market lunch (a reoccurring theme), fried fish and rice. We were preparing ourselves for a 2pm meet up with Edgar. Arriving at the Museum there was a feeling of quiet. Closed shop, kids playing football in the park. Cissi, Tyron and Chris were to meet Edgar too to record some instruments. Edgar wasn't coming. Standing underneath the big tree as time ticked by, it gave us all the space and undesignated time to converse and swap stories and ideas. Edgar had left at midday. We all left him a message that we would be back.

 

Fraide < > Friday by Charlotte Haywood

Monopoly board, culture clash.

Monopoly board, culture clash.

Patrice Cujo Maps Blong Vanuatu

Patrice Cujo
Maps Blong Vanuatu

Patrice Cujo Woven detail

Patrice Cujo
Woven detail

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Oberon stoked with his iguana shoulders

Oberon stoked with his iguana shoulders

Our agenda for the day was to touch base with Edgar, propose our idea and collaboration, followed by palm leaf weaving, Foundation Bastienne and Digicel.

We pitched our ideas to Edgar. We were also aware of his time that we would need and had decided we would offer him a fee. He was interested and understood that it would be some sort of a creative process. 

We had decided that to contrast the old and new, the natural and the introduced, we would create a video of Edgar sand-droing in front of the telecommunication towers of Digicel. This was later to be on our agenda and a proposal for Sarg, the head IT contact there.

Another quick lunch at the markets and we went to visit the contemporary art space Foundation Suzanne Bastien. An interesting light filled warehouse type space. It housed beautiful representations of contemporary Ni- Vanuatu artworks by the artist Patrice Cujo. Incorporating traditional weaving techniques and cartography. Representational of the importance of land in kastom.

Digicel, boardroom meeting. A world away from Vanuatu. Where were we? Sarg gave us the lay of the land in regards to telecommunication, mobiles and smart phones. As most of the Islands were without electricity or had limited amounts, to charge a smart phone was simply out of the question. I  found this incredibly interesting as an overlay of how "we" perceive there to be solutions and technologies that will connect and enhance, without realising the fundamental infrastructures. I found this to be a common theme of applying "our" reflections upon the landscape.

Vanuatu has impressed me with it's self sufficiency and happiness. I wonder if the intrusion of the global economy and seduction of western consumer lifestyles could lead to further degradation of the environment and dissatisfaction.

 

Sarere < > Saturday by Charlotte Haywood

Indian Minor motif Photograph-Jeremy Sheehan

Indian Minor motif
Photograph-Jeremy Sheehan

Edgar at Digicel Photograph-Jeremy Sheehan

Edgar at Digicel
Photograph-Jeremy Sheehan

The first Nakamal in Port Vila. Photograph- Jeremy Sheehan

The first Nakamal in Port Vila.
Photograph- Jeremy Sheehan

Photograph- Jeremy Sheehan

Photograph- Jeremy Sheehan

Our final project took place on Saturday. A collaboration between Jeremy, Amanda, Edgar and myself. We picked up Edgar and headed to Digicel as a backdrop to create a video and narrative that described the introduced in the landscape. Edgar had interpreted this as the Indian minor bird. This worked especially for Jeremy as he had concerns for the mutton bird as a mass consumer of ocean plastics.

We were honoured to be invited to Edgar's Nakamal where he was to perform the new narrative in the natural setting and in the natural medium of the ash of the fire of the Nakamal. We were a captured audience.