Day 148, Year 2: A Visit to a Magical Place
Date: Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Weather: Beautiful Day with a Noontime Deluge
Location: Port Vila, Efate

We have seen so many beautiful things in the South Pacific that I have trouble imagining seeing things that are even more beautiful. But the “even more beautiful” does exist. I saw it today. More on that in just in minute. But first . . .

Our day started with Mark going to Customs and then to Immigration to do the necessary paperwork to check us out of Vanuatu. Customs is in one part of town that we have to visit by dinghy and Immigration is on the main street in Vila. Having Customs and Immigration as far apart as possible is the case in most countries we visit. Sure wish they could be located in the same vicinity, but I guess this is the price we pay to be here. Paul on Ranger picked Mark up so I could have Windbird’s dinghy
to go into town. I went to the internet cafe to make another Skype call to Heather and Jed. I was hoping to see grand baby Sam in full action. This time we had a decent connection, but Heather and Jed couldn’t get one camera working and couldn’t find the other. We did have a nice conversation and I got to hear Sam expressing his distress at not being able to eat the computer speakers, but I’ll just have to wait until we get to Noumea in New Caledonia to see him. That will be sometime in the
next three weeks. By that time, Heather and Jed will be fully moved into the new home and will have internet and cameras all working. Once Mark and Paul returned from the checking-out procedure, they headed back to the boats in hopes of getting them to the dock to fill up with fuel and water. Marie and I headed to the Michoutouchkine & Pilioko Foundation Art Gallery. We have seen Pilioko’s art work on the buildings in downtown Vila and we have visited Michoutouchkine’s boutique on the main street
in Vila where he sells his original textile designs. We actually met him there on our first visit to Vila. But both Marie and I have been drawn to the art gallery by descriptions we have read, and we didn’t want to leave Vila without seeing it.

Marie and I hopped on a bus headed down the Pango village road to Esnaar. This is the home of the gallery, but it is much more than a gallery. Michoutouchkine and Pilioko call it their “total concept” and they both live and work there. They have combined their artwork with the natural world to create a truly magical place. Both artists have lived there on the edge of sea for the past forty years. The bus drove us down the driveway and dropped us off. Even in the grassy parking area, there were
black tree fern carvings and tall carved tamtams (drums). We wound our way down a little path and found ourselves at what appeared to be a storage building. We kept saying “hello” and finally a man appeared and showed us the way to the gallery. The gallery was fairly small and had a collection of Pilioko’s large paintings mixed with collections of Melanesian art. When we walked back outside, we followed the path to an area that looked like an outdoor patio. There was a round table with a carved
prow of an outrigger as the center piece. We walked closer to the ocean and found a huge long table. Sitting there, all you could hear was the sound of gentle waves washing ashore. There were the remains of once grand seaside pool and then we walked into what looked like an outdoor living room and then a dining room with a table set for eight. From there we turned and walked through a working area with paints here and there. This brought us to another alcove and a doorway that appeared to be
someone’s home. Pilioko emerged and invited us into his indoor living room. He is now an old man, probably only in his seventies, but he is starting to look very frail. He was a gracious host. By this time, we could see that absolutely everything here was art. The path, the floors, the ceilings, the doorways, the tables, and even the way Pilioko was dressed . . . absolutely everything here was a combination of art and the real. We had a little picture-taking session with Pilioko, said our goodbye’s,
and kept walking to find ourselves at Michotouchkine’s home. There were clothes hanging on the line and I couldn’t tell if they were new items that had just been painted or if they were Michoutouchkine’s clothes drying. whichever, they were a work of art. A brightly painted yellow and red mini-van pulled up and out stepped Michoutouchkine. He asked if we were the women meeting him for lunch. We told him no, but explained that we had met him a month or so ago when we were in Vila. Just a couple
of days ago, Mark and I were in his shop downtown and commissioned a shirt to be done for a gift. I asked him if it was done, and with a twinkle in his eye, he assured me it was in the shop ready for pick-up. It was then that he said that he hoped we had enjoyed our visit to this “magical place.” He said it that way, and I could see in his eyes that he truly feels that. Marie and I certainly did. This was a very special visit. Note: Pilioko is a native of Wallis and Futuna islands but has
lived most of his adult life here in Vanuatu. He met Michoutouchkine at an art exhibition in New Caledonia over forty years ago and Michoutouchkine moved here from Russia shortly thereafter. They have been combining their artistic talents ever since.

While we were walking down the long driveway, a taxi came delivering the luncheon guests. As the taxi came back out, the driver stopped and asked if we wanted a ride back to Vila. Both taxis and buses here are mini-vans. The only difference is the ‘T’ or ‘B’ on the license plate and the fact that buses cost 100 Vatu (~$1 US) to take you almost anywhere and taxis charge 500 Vatu (~$5 US) or more. But since we were far out of town and weren’t sure when a bus might come, we took the taxi. The driver
was from Port Resolution in Tanna and we enjoyed talking to him about that. No sooner did we get in the taxi than the skies opened up. For five minutes or so the heaven’s dropped a huge amount of water. When we got to our destination, we had to get out of the taxi and walk through a river of water. I could not believe that much water rushing down the street come from only five minutes of raining. When I got back to Windbird, I was so excited about what I had seen at that I had to download my
pictures and show Mark. I could see that my pictures did not quite do justice to the “magical place” but I will always have my memories.

In the afternoon, Mark and I walked downtown to pick up our daughter’s birthday present. The shop wasn’t open yet (lunch times here go anywhere from 12 noon to 3 o’clock), so we walked across the street to see what was happening at the Cultural Center. There was a display about contemporary singer Vanessa Quai. She is a ni-Vanuatu woman gaining world-wide acclaim for her music. She is from Ambae Island, just north and west of Pentecost. We learned that her birth mother was from Fiji and her
father from Ambae. We didn’t understand what happened to Vanessa’s birth mother, but we were told that her father married a woman from Ambae and that Vanessa lived most of her childhood with the step-mother. We really liked her music, so check it out. I would imagine that it is available on Amazon.

Our last stop in town was at the Post Office to send a birthday package to our daughter Heather and to send a package of shell items, seeds, and woven items we have collected. It looks like we could have difficulty getting these things into New Caledonia and Australia, so we took this opportunity to ship them home. As we headed from shore out to Windbird, we saw that Incognita, a Canadian boat that had been at the fuel dock since before noon, was moving back to the mooring field. This gave the
opening for Ranger to go fuel up. As soon as they were finished, we headed over. So now we are back on the mooring, full of fuel and water, and ready to leave for New Caledonia. We will go into the internet cafe one more time in the AM to post our last Vanuatu photos, and then wait until the afternoon to leave. This trip will take us two nights, and we should arrive in the Loyalty Islands on Saturday morning.

I still have the sniffles, but the cold is not too bad. Doing two nights at sea will fix that, however. The lack of sleep always leaves us a bit run-down, so the “not too bad” cold will probably get worse. Ooops, there I go again leaving that glass half-empty.

070919 Day 148 Efate Vanuatu–Michoutouchkine & Pilioko Gallery