Metak passed out after an all night party
on the coast, 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 the party.