Art exhibition with a message

A NEWLY opened art exhibition in Port Vila has been as described as ‘a triumph for environmental awareness and art appreciation in Vanuatu’.

More than 300 people attended the launch of the inspirational Sik Plastik long Solwata exhibition at the Fondation Suzanne Bastien Art Gallery.

The exhibition includes an eclectic array of art styles from 30 local Vanuatu and visiting artists, school children, community organisations.

These include Lycee Francais J.M.G. le Clezio, Port Vila International School, Solwota Sista, Vanuatu Surfing Association, VESS and Wan SmolBag Youth Centre, together with local musicians, including the Dropvkal Groove Band.

The colourful collection showcases an array of styles, from fine art and sculpture to children’s installations, collage, mixed mediums, soundscapes, audio visual, garden sculpture, ‘trash art’, modern abstract, X-ray, and Vanuatu contemporary art.

Many of the pieces are made entirely of plastic debris fished from the sea.

Visitors at the opening of the Sik Plastik long Solwata exhibition view the 'Slippery Fis' sculpture.
Visitors at the opening of the Sik Plastik long Solwata exhibition view the ‘Slippery Fis’ sculpture.

These include collaborative artworks: Slippery Fis, a sculpture that is covered in rubber ‘scales’; the Kwin Plastique, a mythological creature which incorporates an eerie soundscape heralding the end of the world; and the children’s ceiling jellyfish installation, The Bloom, made from PET bottles.

This extraordinary group exhibition is inspired by Vanuatu’s environment and is intended as a ‘wake-up call’ to the community about the potential impeding catastrophe facing Vanuatu and the world’s oceans if people continue to ‘sakem toti olbaot’.

“A lot of Vanuatu art is directly inspired by the environment and also culture, and you see that in all the NiVanuatu artists’ pieces here. It really brings home to all of us how important it is to maintain our environment and culture”, said Lands Minister Ralph Regenvanu.

“Plastic waste is definitely a huge issue in Vanuatu so anything to make people think more about the issue of plastic waste in the sea, and waste in general, is great.

“I hope a lot of people can come and see the exhibition and get the message.”

Daniel Owen, the exhibition’s curator and Slippery Fis contributing artist is thrilled with the calibre of art on show.

“It’s fantastic to see the local talent here in Vanuatu. I am blown away by all of the artists’ work and the contribution from community organisations. They have come together to be a catalyst for positive community action.

“The key message of the night, and the exhibition, is ‘jenisem fasin we komuniti I sakem plastic toti olbaot’ or in other words, everyone in Vanuatu can make a difference by choosing to not throw plastic rubbish away where it can end up in the seas,” he said.

“The islands of Vanuatu are surrounded by saltwater. It inspires Vanuatu culture and provides inspiration to our exhibition artists. We all need to be mindful of taking care our seas.”

New Zealand High Commissioner, Georgina Roberts, said she was particularly impressed with the creativity on show, the materials the artists have used and the way they have been transformed to capture people’s imagination.

“I am especially impressed by the very memorable Slippery Fis and the NiVanuatu art,” she said.

The crowd was encouraged to be part of the solution by choosing to reduce, recycle, reuse, and refuse single use plastics.

The community is invited to see Sik Plastik long Solwata at the Fondation Suzanne Bastien in Pango. The free exhibition goes until 26 November.