A VILLAGE LOST IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC
Yakel village, Tanna Island, Vanuatu.
An ancient community lost in the south pacific, living by an active volcano, it was the stage of the Oscar-nominated Tanna and also inhabited by an unexpected character.
We can hear and smell the constant micro eruptions of Mount Yasur, a very audible and strong entity, and it is also an essential source of local mythology. The community’s way of life remains unchanged despite the constant pressure of the outside world. The Oscar-nominated film, Tanna, a tribal version of Romeo and Juliet that was shot here with the tribe members becoming actors for the first time and shining a different light on this community where most people still speak their native language. The village chief, a very well respected man in Yakel, has the final word in most of the community issues and had to permit our presence in the tribe’s territory.
We met an unexpected guest living amongst the tribe - Jurek, a nuclear physicist from Poland who kindly showed us around the village. He is a nuclear physicist from Poland, living in the community several months per year. Jurek has been accepted by the village chief to be part of the tribe and use the traditional costume they offered him, he brings information from the outside world to the villagers, explaining complex concepts such as religion and western politics but also simple ones like aspirin, band-aids and croc sandals.
Another friendly host, this time a real, local, Albi, kindly showed us his vegetable garden, his pigs, posed for photos with his family but also performed for us the scene of his death on the movie Tanna, where Albi played the village chief. Albi also explained to us the importance of owning many pigs and the size of the animals, in the words of Jurek, “pigs in the tribal world are like Mercedes”, referring to it as a symbol of wealth and power.