Our art is valuable because it carries tradition, says Vanuatu artist

Artist Simix Simeon at work in the studio

Artist Simix Simeon at work in the studio: Photo: Awis Artists

By 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.

Awis Artists' group

Awis Artists’ group at Rentapao. Photo: Awis Artists

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.

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Simix Simeon is a chief of the Ohlen Mataso area of Port Vila, 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.

This post first appeared on the Islands Society Blog and has been republished with permission.


2 Comments on “Our art is valuable because it carries tradition, says Vanuatu artist”

  1. Very good and important article! I am interested in views on how the communities (ethno-cultural custodians of the cultural heritage) understand, value and contest traditional knowledge and cultural heritage. Art is certianly a very important mode for the communication of what constitutes traditional knowledge.


  2. Geraldo says:

    It is a good thing to keep the culture otherwise we gonna lose it one day. Keep working on your art work and believe in yourself. Thanks to the promoter and helper who have helped you so far.