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Why do men dream of being worshipped by people on the other side of the world? It is an old fantasy, going back to the early explorers as imperial powers cast their eyes hungrily around the world. From Captain Cook to Hernan Cortes, they all came back with a peculiar tale that they’d been received as a god by the people they encountered in distant lands.
In Vanuatu, an archipelago nation in the South Pacific, the old dream is still very much alive. The Men Who Would Be King tells the stories of men from Europe and America who go to Vanuatu claiming or believing they are the fulfilment of a prophecy on the islands that says a divine man will one day come from overseas. These are tales as wily as any fiction; the claimant to a tropical throne living in exile in Nice, the American filmmaker wandering between villages handing out necklaces of his own face. Sometimes they turn violent: the old gunmaker who led an armed insurgency in the jungle, the Las Vegas millionaires who fashioned their own messiah in a bid to carve out their own libertarian paradise in the South Seas.
The Men Who Would Be King is a series of encounters between 2014 and 2018 with the complex firmament of mythos and oral traditions that criss-cross Vanuatu, and the myriad foreigners who get lost in them. The book asks why this old explorers’ dream about deified white men has endured in the Western imagination, through our films and literature, and examines the long shadow it casts into our own time.
Published by Dewi Lewis Publishing
250 x 200 mm