The History of Paradise is as old as the telling of stories,

It is a tale that often begins with an island......


O.W

‘I had never heard of the island. The truth of the matter was that I had no idea where we were going.’

‘I was on this boat, and the boat sailed into the harbour, our harbour, first thing early in the morning, and I said where on
earth are we?

‘I got off and walked around. Everything was very simple, and it all seemed immaculate to me and absolutely so enchanting.’

A.H

‘When we got here, the place was so foreign and different. It was dusty and strange. I had no idea what the island was at all.

It was a completely random choice.’

S.R

‘There was no point in going any further because it was so idyllic here.’

O.W

‘I fell in love with the island immediately. I thought one could not do better than this. I just decided that this was the place for me. If I could swing it.’

‘All the people who were with me had the same idea, but the majority of them went away.’

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Nostradamus believed that the world would come to an end in an apocalyptic war. The island, protected

by a unique prevailing wind, would be the world’s last refuge.

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F.B

‘From the first moment it felt like paradise. The countryside was like the Middle Ages with small villages like I had never seen before. It was as if I had been transported back in time.’

O.W

‘All the women wore long black dresses, completely black.’

F.B

‘The exchange between people in the foreign colony here was amazing and unheard of at the time.’

‘It was all totally different to what I was used to and where I had grown up. After a while I could not believe it. I thought this is another world, another attitude towards life. It sounds like a dream, but for a long time it was real.’

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Little had changed on the island. One could walk along paths, and down alleyways, that were the same as when they were first walked on over a thousand years ago.

The island had been on major trade routes since the beginning of time. The economy had flourished and vast empires fought over it. Then trade routes changed, attention moved elsewhere, and the islander’s world shrunk. Life for the inhabitants became very tough as the island stagnated. There were no forces pushing economic growth, or money for modernisation, so there was little scope for progress.

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F.B

‘Nature was abundant. Everything was here. You could go up to an old tree and pick figs, or eat apricots, and the oranges, and in the fields, the asparagus and the wild spinach.’

A.H

‘The landscape had a real delicacy and intricacy. You could sense the aura of an ancient way of life in which generations of families had engrained their ways and movements into the land.’

O.W   

‘I always thought that the road was like a garden. I mean really like a garden. Everything was so beautifully kept. You see there was nothing for people to do here.’

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There is a cactus that can be found all over the island. It only flowers once in its life, after fourteen years, and then it dies. The flower is a thing of beauty and can rise into the sky towering over houses. As the flower withers, new shoots begin underground, and the cycle starts once again.

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S.R

‘One day we asked the neighbour if he had any way we could get around. He said I am very sorry, but all I have got is two horses. We really wanted a car, not horses.’

‘The only bus was this old, Russian thing that the communists had given the communists here on the island. It was still going, very much so, but we all had to get out and walk up the hill because it could not take it.’

‘I remember, we were saying at the time that it was so sad that they had things like a bus, but they did not have much else back then.’

A.H

‘You just had to get on a bike or a donkey, if you could find one, but mainly we walked. We walked everywhere. This created such an intimacy and kind of closeness of everything.’

‘The whole thing was visually quite odd with people on foot, or on horse and carriage, and everything much slower and quieter. The quietness was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I will never forget those marvellous lamp lit nights with nothing but the sound of voices and the crickets. It was like stepping back into a world you had only read about in books.

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When some cars did start to appear on the island they were driven until they fell apart, then rebuilt until they could no more. Cars would be cannibalised from other cars, hybrids made of bits of wood or whatever could be found. If something fell off it was just nailed back into place or held on by rope.

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A.H

‘Change is what happens of course we all know that. The writing was on the wall years ago. We all knew it would change, and in a way we were part of the process, but we just did not want to acknowledge it.’

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Over the millennia, waves of different people have landed on the island. One of the first things they would do is destroy any religious sites they could find, and build their own temples on top of them, introducing new Gods to replace the old.

Surrounded by lands teeming with snakes, the earliest settlers were amazed to find none on the island. Thinking they had found an earthly paradise they named the island after their God of all good things in life, of music, dance and sex. Later on when the Others came they worshipped the same things but their Gods were different.

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O.W

‘The islanders are a very ancient race, hard working but incredibly poor. Their lives had been a terrific struggle for centuries. They had an integrity and honesty, and that was very tangible in the atmosphere.’

A.H     

‘They have a long tradition of being invaded and they have developed ways of dealing with this. They just took it for granted that outsiders were going to behave badly, and take what they wanted. After all that is what they had always experienced.’

F.B

‘You would have thought that more than anything they would have been weary and suspicious of foreigners, but this is not the case. The locals here don’t care if you look like you come from another planet, and if you walk upside down, as long as you behave.’

O.W

‘In those days the islanders were delighted to have foreigners coming in and bringing money with them. They had been shut off.’

A.H  

‘They are not easily shocked, which is quite something, considering they had never seen such behaviour, and a lot of it was completely outlandish, as weird as you can imagine.’

‘They certainly managed to absorb this particular invasion very well.’

O.W  

‘They were far too easy going towards the foreigners coming in.’

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The islanders have suffered shocks all their lives. The peaceful coves and majestic beaches that now provide such alluring pleasures were once viewed with fear and trepidation. In the past any time spent at the shore would be tempered by having one eye constantly scanning the horizon for signs of an alien vessel.

As far as we know it began long ago with the arrival of otherworldly people wearing bright purple gowns. Gowns, that required divers to collect a quarter of a million sea snails by hand in order to make the dye for each one. These people came from the other side of the sea in their long, elegant boats, bringing with them an unfamiliar tongue, new technologies and strange Gods. They introduced the corner, and with it rectangular houses to replace what until then had only been round huts.

With the absence of any dangerous creatures, these people came to believe that the island was sacred, and so they would bring their dead across the sea for burial. To ensure a smooth passage they would be buried with a large, finely painted egg belonging to the flightless birds of their homeland. Though they came from far away the island has one of the largest graveyards known to these people.

Like all subsequent arrivals they gave the inhabitants three choices; convert to our ways, leave the island, or flee deeper into the remote valleys of the interior.

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F.B

‘We all played a part in what happened, it was the speed of the changes that was unimaginable.’

A.H

‘A sad tale in how all those ideals, and a romantic escapism, should lead to where we are now, but no one at the time could have imagined that.’




Island

40 Photographs

6,000 word conversation between four people accompanied by a narrator.

2006 – 2017