In Palau (an archipelago of islands in Micronesia), the artisans make remarkable relief-carved wooden boards – appropriately called “storyboards”.
This idea of creating a loose/non-linear narrative to visually accompany an oral story was the spark that ignites did my whole public speaking/story making style.
When I wander far, I rarely take a camera beyond a disposable unit but instead, chronicle my journey through assembling ephemeral artifacts which then become scrapbooks and/or storyboards of a kind. In this example from Palau, you’ll see a mix of disposable camera snapshots printed on distressed hemp paper along with various tickets, shells, lighters, maps, newsclippings, stickers, stamps etc. plus… I wrote a brief narrative structure on Japanese rice paper envelopes, and then assembled the whole collection on green hemp canvas attached to a wooden cradle — then added paint, straw, bits of dead coral and so on.
I went there with little knowledge, no plans, and few expectations but managed to hop between islands on various intermittent ferries hauling drums of diesel, small plane, random boats and goodwill of others. Caught in a tent in a rainstorm on Anguar, made a driftwood fire for fish, tromped to the top of bloody nose Ridge on Pelilu, saw tanks resting in the jungle and sealed up a escape tunnels, drinks at Jeff’s pirate cove in Koror… Met a friend and helped deliver mail to a live aboard dive boat then surfed a dangerous coral break, scuba dove solo at blue corner (saw sharks turtles and the very middle of the earth), free dove for a giant clams and cooked the giant clam meat on a little fire on a perfect tiny island.
Saw the Southern Cross, bought a handmade wooden spear gun, plus a hand fishing reel with thick line for trolling off a boat or casting from shore and traded dive masks for kayak rides and packets of zigzags for local herbs (which were exceptional) and used comically large shells as ashtrays. The old folks on the islands spoke Japanese so I was able to hear stories of the occupation, traditions and life during wartime without filter of go-betweens. I imagined the tens of thousands of lives lost in meeting last battles as I rumble down potholed airstrips made pre-World War II while the plane literally drops off the edge of a cliff before catching itself while waves crash below.
This was just before the bridge collapsed between the island with the small airport which connects to the capital “city.” I went deep down their historical rabbit hole and learned of their tussles with foreign fishing fleets, nuclear submarines, handoffs between colonial powers > United Nations > and finally (re)independence, plus their pushback against encroaching tourist hotels and the deep respect for their natural environment. The hundreds of islands look like heads of broccoli and the people have a remarkable combination of a sense of the outside world while maintaining their traditions and culture without giving into the shiny temptations of material trappings. This is all. I planned to return for too many years now and, hesitated to tell anyone about this because I want to vanish here perhaps.