Last month, Port Vila Municipal Council officially rebranded as Port Vila city. As Vanuatu celebrates it’s 40th Independence, Georgilla Worwor takes to the streets of the newly rebranded capital to celebrate how far Vanuatu has come since 1980.
A student activist and corporate worker, Georgilla represents the modern youth of Vanuatu. Passionate about Ni-Vanuatu culture and human rights, over the past few years Georgilla has also been advocating in solidarity with the people of West Papua for a fair and transparent referendum. As Vanuatu’s celebrates it’s 40th Independence, Georgilla asks us to remember the words of late Father Walter Lini, who was a strong supporter of West Papua Independence, ‘We are not free until everyone else is free.’
Georgilla encourages young people to embrace their individuality and celebrate their Ni-Vanuatu culture, while striving to make a commitment to contribute to making the world a better place. She says, ‘In the current political climate that our world is facing, with amplified awareness on racism and indigenous rights – I think this is a crucial time to be yourself, speak your truth and inspire others to do good in this world.’
#Yumi40 #PortVilaCity #PapuaMerdeka #FreeWestPapua #WarriorSpirit #AelanGoddess #MelanesianQueen
Where are you from?
West Ambrym (Wuro) and North Pentecost (Raga)
Tell us about your family?
I have a big family. My father is from Wuro village in West Ambrym. The woman who gave birth to me is from the land of father Walter Lini, Raga (North Pentecost). The woman who raised me is from le Paye Pas. I have family from all three of them.
I grew up multicultural. I was raised by my aunties at Blacksands as Dad was a single parent and busy working as an eye nurse at the Vila Central Hospital. My Dad re-married a woman from the Netherlands who loved to travel the world and somehow miraculously ended up in Vanuatu where she stayed and raised a big family.
During my early childhood, my Dad, step mum, little brother Justus and cousins attended the Revival Fellowship Church where we made families with the Ayamiseba family from West Papua. Andy Ayamiseba was around then, may he rest in peace. My community is also my family, which is typical in Vanuatu. My families are both resilient and strong.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to read and write, whether its literature, rap, song lyrics, academic writing, scriptures and political web articles. If I am not reading, I am looking for food, sleeping or listening to music. I also enjoy my group discussions with my sistas and friends from the CARE’s Young Women’s Leadership Program.
On the other hand, if I was in Ambrym I would be sitting and listening to my grandmother talk about her time, going swimming in the ocean, organizing youth activities with my cousins, aunts and sistas or looking for Navara.
What do you do?
I am a Law student at the University of the South Pacific and a student activist. At the moment I am a Trainee at VIB Limited, and involved with a writing community that is developing a Vanuatu Children’s Literature book, which is led by Anna Naupa. It consists of both professional and aspiring writers like myself who would like to see more ‘home grown’ pieces of writing, especially in the school curriculum.
I am also a graduate of the Young Women’s Leadership Program (YWLP) run by CARE International and funded by the Australian government. I am part of a group that was formed under the YWLP called ‘The Defiants’ – we run community workshops and little projects that spark a better change in the lives of women and young girls here in Vanuatu.
Now that we have graduated from YWLP we are in the midst of setting up an alumni of which we can run our own projects with support from CARE. These are the things I do and that I am passionate about. I love it!
I believe you can most definitely create the life you want. You have to take the time to get to know who you really are, start from where you are now and pray a lot. Make your decisions one step at a time. In my own journey, I have learnt that there are some things I have no control over and that I can’t do on my own.
What do you aspire to do in the future?
I have personal, career and community goals that go towards a 2050 plan. It’s a slow and long process and hopefully I will be alive by then to see the fruit of my labor.
One immediate short term goal is to work with women, young girls and chiefs in rural areas and outer islands to build their capacity in leadership and decision making in order to mobilize young girls into positions of leadership so that they can play significant roles in their communities. I want to help normalize women in leadership and decision-making in this country at the grassroot level.
What is a quote that you live by?
I have more than one. Never put off for tomorrow, what can be done today. Growth is inevitable – a cycle will always repeat itself until you have learnt your lesson. And most importantly, you reap what you sow.
Who influences your style?
To be honest, I don’t follow trends and I don’t look for outside approval when it comes to what I wear. My style simply reflects my personality, and my mood and the events that surround me also influence what I wear.
For example I remember when I first started USP, I would wear bright colors and patterns. Upon reflection, it made sense because those were exciting moments and happy days of my youth.
However now my style is more street smart/smart casual, sometimes a little bit edgy and it has to be comfortable and convenient – I radiate around these as I’m at a stage in my life where I’m working in the corporate world and life is a little bit more serious now as I’ve just started to live by myself.
Some days I will wear really unflattering outfits – usually those are the days where I am too occupied with everything else that I just can’t be bothered about looking good. Haha you should see me on my worst days, I look like I have just gone bush trekking. Mood. But this is also part of life.
However when I do get the opportunity to attend a function or a fashion wear contest, I put together an outfit that is meaningful to me and incorporates my personality and identity. You can make political statements with your choice of outfit, at least that’s what I do. For me, this is important and in the current political climate that our world is facing, with amplified awareness on racism and indigenous rights – I think this is a crucial time to be yourself, speak your truth and inspire others to do good in this world.
In Vanuatu last year we experienced our own politically charged tensions after we had the VOT WOMAN campaign and the petition for the West Papua referendum – I participated in these events with other youth and a lot of the shirts I wear are from these events. My favorite collection of shirts raise awareness about climate change and advocate for ending violence against women and girls and freeing West Papua.
What beauty products do you use?
For my skin and hair, I use coconut oil. I grew up using hair food (the blue bottle pomade) as it was the only substantial and affordable hair product that texturized Afro hair and the only product that my aunties used around me. It’s old but gold!
If you are looking for hair growth – the key is consistency with your products. Rice watering your hair every 2 weeks is a cheap and great method. Some oils for hair treatment would be aloe vera, olive oil and good old coconut oil. In terms of styling, there is a new and affordable pomade styling gel sold in Chinese shops and and it has different colored foil containers. I like to use the yellow one because it’s the most camouflaged one for my hair. I apply with coconut oil to get rid of the white spots and to get that shiny hair glow effect.
Let’s talk about black beauty…
In high school I straightened my hair, because it was hard to tame it and to get it to “look neat” and there just was not enough information out there on how to look after Afro hair like mine. Only a few years ago, Afro hair was once seen as not an ideal corporate look and deemed less attractive. I thought kinky hair like mine would never grow, but that’s a proven myth. Now there is lots of information online and a lot of young Ni-Vanuatu girls are really looking after their natural hair now and seeking natural based solutions to maintain their hair texture. So I have been going natural for quite a while now.
What’s getting better now too is that women and young girls are starting to see themselves being represented in beauty industry and it is so validating! Women and young girls of all color, ethnicity and size deserve this. For a young black girl growing up, this is very much needed. There’s also a lot more make up being commercialized that caters to darker skin complexions like Rihanna’s Fenty Products. Even here you can find good make up for dark complexions from the Chinese shops such as Vanuatu Souvenirs, which is the shop downtown from the Chinese Club.
On an international scale, we can see people becoming more aware and informed on the implications of Eurocentric beauty standards (e.g. the false idea that light skin is more attractive, long straight hair is more beautiful, the skinnier you are the better you look) and beginning to call this crap out so that we can collectively change the narrative.
Devnie Bani Ryves from Aelan Curls, which is a locally made hair product that I occasionally buy, said in her speech at the YWLP Forum that “Black people are really starting to take our power back in keeping our hair natural and styling our Afro’s in a lot of different ways because there is so much we can do with our hair!”
Any fashion tips?
Use what you’ve got and what makes you FEEL like YOU. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to look good. I usually buy my clothes from second hand shops. The key is to drop in when they just receive imports and then diligently search the whole shop! My mum and sistas hand-me-downs are pretty cool too. If a t-shirt is old but still fitting, you can just cut off the sleeves and make a tank top out of it. Re-sizing and re-using old items are so great!
What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
I am loyal, brave and true to a cause.
What does being a Ni-Vanuatu woman mean to you?
Being a Ni-Vanuatu woman means creating a welcoming space for all people because a Ni-Vanuatu woman knows how it feels like to be left out or underappreciated.
A Ni-Vanuatu woman is full of silence because she is the descendant of her silent and oppressed ancestors before her.
Being a Ni-Vanuatu woman means putting on a continuous smile of resilience through the adversities of life. Because a Ni-Vanuatu woman remembers that she is a warrior and a descendant of a unique tribe before her.
A Ni-Vanuatu woman does not pursuit happiness in the acquisitive items of life, but is in herself complete with the happiness in simplicity.
A Ni-Vanuatu woman takes care of her family and her people.
A Ni-Vanuatu woman is one that cares not only about herself, but also of others and of the reality of life for people around her.
A Ni-Vanuatu woman puts her people first and herself second. It is in this sense that a Ni-Vanuatu woman compromises her needs and desires for the betterment of others.
It is in this sense that a Ni-Vanuatu woman is a leader.
A Ni-Vanuatu woman is the matriarch of the land she houses, because she is both fertile and fruitful like her eternal land – Vanuatu.
Being a Ni-Vanuatu woman gives me a sense of belonging and this is to my people. A sense of identity and pride for how far we have come as we look to how far we need to go yet.
Vanuatu needs to recognize Ni-Vanuatu women and this is my oath to Ni-Vanuatu women – Yumi stanap. Yumi tekem ples blo yumi lo nation ya from yumi bin buildim nation ya.
Photographer: Nicky Kuautonga
Hair, makeup and nails: Done by the model herself
Assistant: Elisa Mondou
Note: Georgilla is wearing a dress inspired by West Papua
This article was originally published in the July edition of the Vanuatu Daily Post Life and Style magazine