Vanuatu is made up of more than 80 islands. Most of these have suffered from one of the greatest cyclonic storms via Cyclone Pam, that has ever been recorded in this area. These beautiful people need the world’s greatest and most heart-felt donations to help them to rebuild and I sincerely hope all pledges are met and UN teams and other organizations have the fullest endorsements to help fill their intended aid commitment- as is their Charter. Limited footage post-devastation shows a very grim picture of life on the main Vanuatu island of Efate and as time progresses, we will see further devastation on all of the other outlying islands, including Tanna and Ambrym to name but two.
One of the most photographed examples of Port Vila’s public artworks which may be damaged or destroyed in Pam’s destructive wake is this colorful mural on the exterior wall of the Port Vila Post Office; sculptured, painted and created by Aloi Pilioko and his partner; the late Russian artist Nicolai Michoutouchkine.
Pilioko; born in 1935,came from the Wallis-Fortuna island group. He later moved to Vanuatu and subsequently became one of its greatest contemporary artists. His bright and distinctive curvi-linear drawings are part of his trademark style which incorporates various media including paper, cloth and fabric prints. Along with his partner Michoutouchkine; the two became avid collectors of Oceanic art along with traditional and contemporary artifacts of the Pacific region.
- Nicolai was born in Belfort, France to White Russians on 5th October 1929. He studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, before serving in the army as a French citizen from 1957-1959 in New Caledonia.
- He arrived in Vanuatu in 1961 as an established artist and Oceanic artifact collector, having already spent three years in the French Pacific island area.
- In his company was a former copra cutter from Wallis & Fortuna, (Aloi Pilioko), after meeting him in 1959 at a gallery opening in the New Caledonian capital of Nouméa.
The first exhibition of contemporary art to take place in Vanuatu was an exhibition of both of their paintings which was held in the Vila Cultural Centre from 26 August-6 September, 1961. Together, they set up their artistic studio HQ in Port Vila’s outer region of Esnaar and in 1978, established their Michoutouchkine-Pilioko Foundation, which became the location of the Centre for the preservation of artistic values in the Pacific (aka) the Museum of Oceanic Art.
For 6 years, from 1961-1967; the two artists traveled the Pacific region with their exhibition of paintings and artifacts; and then on to France, Malmö (Sweden), Russia, Australia, Japan and Mexico.
- Pilioko still lives in Esnaar, just outside Port Vila and continues his unique and majestic contribution to the local and colorful art forms that best represent contemporary ni-Vanuatu art.
- Sadly, Nicolai died on 2nd May, 2010 at the age of 80.
As for the dreadful aftermath of Cyclone Pam and its devastating wake of destruction on the livelihood of the ni-Vanuatu; all I can say in Bislama is “mi no harem save” (…”I don’t understand“).
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