Somuk comes from Buka, where he lives from fishing. Acknowledged for his talent as a storyteller and for his extraordinary memory, in the evening he tells the villagers about the warlike exploits of his ancestors. In about 1934 Patrick O’Reilly, a Marist brother, asks him to illustrate his tales, and Somuk, who has never drawn before, becomes extremely keen on the exercise. Using ink from the village school as well as coloring pencils on the back of printed materials or on paper from schoolbooks, he produces hundreds of drawings. His compositions depict Melanesian stories and customs, as well as traditional dances and ceremonies. Jean Dubuffet met Patrick O’Reilly around 1945 and O’Reilly showed him work made by Somuk.

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