Some women, children and men from the village come to sit with us.
Do they consider their land paradise too?
People here live in huts. There’s a kitchen, a garden for food, coconut palms, a canoe and all the time in the world. The abundance of nature lies on their doorsteps. There’s an occasional stereo, hooked to a solar panel showing signs of familiarity. The men and women speak of their community and the structures that make it work. I ask them questions and take what they say for the whole truth, although I know there is a layer to every culture which we cannot see. It’s only after a while that we see fragments of the whole, revealing the truth bit by bit, though never uncovering itself fully. Their secrets are only known to the people of this community.
They make the sounds the chickens make
And I do what I never could
I ask them questions and they answer
Sometimes they mean the opposite.
Maybe its the universe preparing me for the journeys ahead.
I used to believe I was more free than the people of Vanuatu. When things turned dark for me back home, I left believing it was a privilege that I could. People here will never leave. The same actions are performed everyday: the finding and preparing of food, taking care of the children and cleaning the huts. When I look into their eyes in an attempt to better understand, they simply smile.
It’s the women that got to me the most. When they start tapping the river, rhythmic sounds emerge, and water turns into an instrument. It’s an ancient tradition only known to women and girls over the age of five. It’s their ritual, their game, maybe only sometimes a way to impress. All day, in the shadow of the big trees, in the river or the ocean or where the two meet. In the bubble of water they are free and undisturbed, together in perfect symbiosis. Here, no one can tell them what to do, here they are strong and joyful.
Endlessly they play the water with their hands,
they slap and hit, they play and laugh.
I watch them climb Mango trees, run through the bush, fish in the reefs just off the whitest beaches I have ever seen. A unique connection develops within a few days. We walked in and they welcomed us. Over New Years Eve we climb up to the 120m water fall. A rough hike through thick bush and forest brings us to a spot to put up camp. We sleep early on this last night of the year. When the sun sends her first light beams through leaves and branches something new within me awakens. Something pure. I realise the Ni’van have something we have lost.
Photography & Words by Ramin Aryaie
A Film by Ramin Aryaie
Editor in Chief Vincenzo Angileri
Executive Producers Albert Folch, Rafa Martínez & Guille Cascante
Editor Bernat Granados
Script by Valerie Steenhaut
Voiceover by Mads Vine
Edited by Valerie Steenhaut & Bis Turnor
Artwork by John Zabawa
Reading: Ishmael, Daniel Quinn