Maps of Vanuatu

Maps of Vanuatu in Pictures

By Artist: Patrice Cujo

One should not see the exhibited maps as representations of the islands of Vanuatu but as just the outline of a presentation of an archipelago whose complexity is amazing.
The approach is essentially graphic. The choice of the geographical map considered as a plane – a surface, loaded with signs whose codifications evolve and take on their own peculiarity in time and space – both problematic, as a flatness blending associations of ideas and visual displacements into a concentration of ideas, seemed to me then to be the medium which allowed me best to bring together 3 vivid experiences from my stay in Vanuatu.

Sand drawing
In Vanuatu there is an art, as fascinating as it is intelligent, and that is sand drawing. On a framework drawn on the sand, or from memory, the story teller simultaneously unravels a narrative which can be sacred or profane. With a finger only lifted when the the drawing and the story is finished, he constructs a complex geometrical figure made of loops and counter-loops, of straight and crossed lines. It is an astonishing way of writing which fixes the narrative while it authentifies the singularity of the construction.


At my request, a friend from Malekula had drawn a map to show me the area where he lived in the one of the mazes of Port Vila’s suburbs. This drawing came out graphically as a skein held up in real time by a set of stories which identified each place drawn on the sheet of paper. A complex array of superimposed lines, of condensed spaces, becoming actual places through the wealth of explanations narrated.

His excellent knowledge of the urban geography of the suburbs, in perpetual transformation, and his sense of narrative gave him a great liberty to interpret the toponimy, whose codes go back to the colonial administrative grid.


Map of the Island Malekula, Vanuatu

My frequent travels in the islands Insular space is constrained and paradoxically also in movement – physically, because rising out of the ocean, it is still developing anthropologically, enriched by the abundance of languages in a space which by definition is limited “Graon i stap be man hemi muv” a man from Epi once told me, at an evening in a Nakamal.


Patrice CUJO
1985 – 1991

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