The Full Potential of Contemporary Artists in Vanuatu – Simix Simeon

My name is Simix Simeon and I was born on the small island of Mataso in Vanuatu. I am the leader of an art collective from the Mataso community who live on the outskirts of Port Vila, the capital city of Vanuatu. We are called Awis Artis Blong Vanuatu.

In our Mataso community, there is a lot of interest in the arts. We like art and drawing. And, many of our young people would like to become artists. These young people usually have had little education though, as it is expensive for parents to send their children to school in Vanuatu.

For these young people, art is a way to communicate. We have the talent, the understanding, and the knowledge. The problem is that we don’t know how to create art. We need art materials. We need to be mentored how to use them. And, we need outsiders to help us to share our ‘kastom’ knowledge.

Our art is valuable because of the traditions it carries. It is based on our true life stories that are getting lost. As you know, our lives in the Pacific Islands are changing due to people moving away from their ancestral homes. This is mainly because of economic reasons and of course climate change.

For these reasons, I feel that it is up to our generation to make sure none of our culture gets lost. If we don’t preserve and promote our own heritage, then we will lose our ‘kastom’ and the value of our lives.

I also believe there is great potential for Pacific artists. There are so many islands. All have their own stories to tell. It would be very sad if these stories were lost forever.

My way of telling the stories from my island community is through my art. And, I am encouraging other artists in our Mataso community to do the same. This will keep our traditions alive.

To date, our Mataso art has shown in several major galleries in Australia. So, I know that there is interest in Pacific art.

We believe that our art is very valuable. And, we hope that the rest of the world will as well.

Simix Simeon is a chief of the Ohlen/Matas Village of Port Villa, Vanuatu. As an avid advocate of indigenous arts in his community, Simeon has led the creation of a successful art collective called ‘Awis Artis Blong Vanuatu’ which now includes over ten artists. With a desire to find connections between traditional and contemporary art, Simeon works towards developing his own skills. But, he is also known as a local leader promoting the international exposure of Ni-Vanuatu artists.

Guest commentaries and responses on the Islands Society Blog represent the views of the respective authors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to pr@islandssociety.org. Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

Image Credit: Nicolas Raymond via Flickr CC

The Problem with Art Poverty in the Pacific – Lesley Wengembo

Every human being on this planet has their own choices to make. They can choose to live based on their passions, based on their obligations, or based on something else entirely. However, our gifts, talents, potential and abilities make this world function. That will never change.

When I was younger, I thought that being an artist was a profession. It was about making money. But, I now realize that being an artist is so much more than a profession. Artists can inspire, influence and motivate people to understand more about reality through creative expression. A few years ago, I heard another professional artist say that contemporary art is a “Voice of Change.” Now, I realize that it is so true. A piece of art can inspire many people. And, art speaks no language.

Unfortunately, not all artists recognize the value of their paintings. And, they give away their art too cheaply. Now, I must say that there are many reasons why an artist might undervalue their work. So, I don’t want to judge other artists. But, I do want to point out that this leads to Art Poverty. And, Art Poverty is a serious problem for many local communities around the world.

In Papua New Guinea, we face Art Poverty. Unfortunately, there is a complete lack of support for artists in my community. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. We can put an end to Art Poverty. But, we need the government of the day to implement strategic policies that promote art in Papua New Guinea. For example, the government could reduce the tax for major companies in exchange for supporting or promoting our artists.

Of course, there are many strategic policies that could be used to promote art in our local community. If we implement a few of them, I know that our artists will slowly start to appreciate their own work and put an end to the habit of giving away their art too cheaply. In the long-term, that will bring an end to Art Poverty in Papua New Guinea.

Lesley Wengembo is a 2015-2016 Pacific NexGen Artist. At only 17 years of age, he won second place in the 2014 Port Moresby Arts Exhibition. He was also recognised with a merit award for the exhibition’s theme Meri (Woman). After receiving coverage from the country’s biggest broadcaster (i.e., EMTVOnline), Wengembohas been able to cultivate new cultural exchanges through art, including participating in the Deutsche 1914 project.

Guest commentaries and responses on the Islands Society Blog represent the views of the respective authors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to pr@islandssociety.org. Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

Image Credit: Drew Douglas via Flickr CC