Namba man reclining, high rainforest, New Hebrides, 1973

In 1973 I spent a quiet month with the Namba people high in the rain forest of the Vanuatu Islands in the south west Pacific. Despite being powerfully built, the Namba men were gentle and soft spoken. I learned one sentence of their language: "I'd like to go the garden today". It was the only place to go, and our days there passed peacefully. Theirs was a life of primary experiences. If they heard music, saw art or ate a meal it was because someone close to them created it. I envied this life and part of me wanted it.

But they wanted my life, or what they thought was mine. They knew one English word, "road", and wanted to be on it. When I saw them last it was after an all night binge on the beach. It was disheartening to see them drawn down from the highlands to the coast. Before leaving the next day I made a portrait of Chief Metak, dressed in western clothes, passed out from the party.


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