I stood and watched as he moved the brush effortlessly and efficiently, leaving behind trails of orange. He had been tasked with painting the “Sounds of Hope” logo at the Saralana stage and he accepted to do it as a volunteer. A veteran artist hailing from the North-western part of Malekula, his strokes have been witnessed in a lot of paintings pertaining to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He works at Au Bon Marché at Nambatu, but more people know him as an artist. His name is Joseph Thomas.

Quiet, uncomplaining, attentive and with great attention to detail. His strokes are precise and stay within boundaries traced out by another artist. He does not go outside the boundaries. He has perfected the skill to the point that he knows what colors to use and what brush to paint with. He defines shadows without looking at a mockup, and he knows exactly what is expected of him.

But, like most ni-Vans, he is not without his share of jokes. When he feels that too many people are gathered around staring at him working, he takes a break and relates a story of his youth – usually ending with a joke. That’s his way of putting his audience at ease. And while his audience is still laughing and cracking related jokes, he turns around, dips his paintbrush into the paint bottle and goes back to work.

Just as much as I like to watch seasoned musicians at their instruments, I am mesmerized by an artist and his paint brush. There is something soothing about the way an elderly person traces strokes of precision from years of experience. Their skill makes me feel at ease and comfortable – as if to say that everything is okay.

I would like to take this opportunity to applaud and thank artists like Joseph Thomas – not out to prove themselves to the world, but staying put in their sphere of influence and bringing peace to the world.