man reclining, high rainforest, New Hebrides, 1973
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