Roman Catholic church at Port Olry, Santo

Roman Catholic church at Port Olry, Santo
Roman Church
Image by Peter Hodge
Thirty years after independence from the joint British – French colonial administration, the French influence in Vanuatu remains strong. And not just baguettes – many schools teach in French, and some ni-Vanuatu speak it as a second or third language ahead of English.

Port Olry, on Santo’s northeast coast, is a fishing village where French is spoken and the people belong to the Roman Catholic Church. The photo shows the local church, which is sited on a low hill.

The high concrete keep is an interesting feature: its size is out of proportion to the church, and it overlooks the village. Does this suggest a desire to dominate the village and its inhabitants? Or does it reflect a sense of threat, from English language culture, and other religious denominations? Protestant and fundamentalist churches are strong in Vanuatu, and people retain their traditional belief in spirits and sorcery.