'One may wonder what really is the Papuan struggle? It is a struggle for human dignity, justice and peace for all . This is not a struggle of Papuans alone, but also of those - no matter who they are or where they are in the world - who share similar values, who believe in respect for other human beings and their cultures and in respect and reverence for this beautiful natural planet on which we all depend for life. The struggle of the Papuans is a challenge to those who consider themselves to be civilised, to be the proponents of modern society, who worship big capital and who are the keepers of 'sophisticated' modern knowledge. The Papuan struggle offers an educational opportunity to those who have lost their spiritual connections to nature and to other human beings . It is a struggle for everyone living or who will ever live in Papua. This book written by Liz Thompson, Jim Elmslie and Ben Bohane gives you insights into Papua. Into the core issues of both sides of Papua's story ; history, oppression and exploitation of the people and their natural resources on the one hand, but also the beauty of Papua, it's people and their culture on the other. These are the truths of the Papuans' struggle today.' John Rumbiak one of West Papua's leading human rights advocates and director of ELS-HAM ( Institute for Reliance and Human Rights) in Jayapura.
Sengo at Dawn
Dani elder with ancestral mummy.
A Dani man with a smoked ancestral mummy kept in the house rafters.
The age of Kali Yuga.
Dani man standing alongside an Indonesian street stall. Baliem Valley. West Papua.
Â© Liz Thompson
Since the 1960's Pauans have been fighting against the occupation of their land by Indonesia. Papuans believe that the UN-supervised and American-backed process by which the Netherlands ceded control of Papua to Indonesia violated international legal protections of the rights to self-determination to governance by Papuans themselves over their natural resources, and to development. Indonesian occupation of Papua has brought a million migrants to the territory as well as large-scale natural resource extraction operations that have displaced and marginalised indigenous Papuans and torn the social fabric of their communities. Human rights activists have reported that an estimated 100,000 Papuans have lost their lives in resisting Indonesia's occupation.
John Rumbiak. One of West Papua's leading human rights advocate in the forward to West Papua - Follow the Morning Star, a book by Jim Elmslie, Ben Bohane and Liz Thompson. Published by Prowling Tiger Press.
Audio track 'We cry our Ancestors' from Sound of the Morning Star - West Papua Album.
The Kajob is a song style from the Biak area in which the singer sings about his ancestors. " We cry the kajob". Not always a lament , more a rememberance. In this song the singer wonders who has taken away the soul of the deceased.... was it the Dutch or the spirits of the dead?
Recorded and mixed by Tim Cole, spoken word recorded by Mark Worth taken from his film Man of the Morning Star.
Highland flute/mambu and shakers played by Pius Wasi
Kundu drums played by Ben Kakalitz from the Telek sessions to his Serious Tam cd
atmospheres recorded at Kokopo East New Britain.
Planting sweet potato cuttings.
One of the most visually striking aspects of the Baliem are the incredible gardens which sometimes hang from the sides of mountains, 3000 metres high and so sheer that women tend them hanging onto vines. On the valley floor, canals as deep as the Dani are high, have irrigated and drained the thousands of garden plots.
Earth Oven at Elegeima Village.
Issac and his father.
Issac and his father. Miagima Village. Baliem Valley. West Papua.
Â© Liz Thompson
Dani woman at Jayapura markets.
In December 1994, when Amungme tribal chief Tuarek Narkime protested against the brutality of the Indonesian Armed Forces who tortured , killed and raped his people, the original owners of the land taken by the giant us-owned mining company Freeport Indonesia, he covered his body in mud, and wearing his penis gourd ( koteka), he marched from Banti, his village, up to Freeport's company town Tembagapura. There, Narkime told Freeport officals , "Gentlemen, I am angry with God. Why has He created such beautiful mountains, valleys and rivers , rich with minerals and placed us - the indigenous peoples - here in this place that attracts so many people from around the world to come, exploit our resources, and kill us ? You had better kill me now, kill all of my people , all our livestock, dig a big grave and bury us all, and then you can do whatever you want on our grave!" Chief Narkime was my mentor, my inspiration. " I know Freeport and the military have created so many problems for us . But our minds and hearts have to be as clean and white as Nemangkawiarat ( white arrow, the Amungme name for the glacier-capped Carstenz mountain peak) when you fight for truth and justice for your people and the land.' . Extract from 'West Papua - Follow the Morning Star' by Jim Elmslie, Ben Bohane and Liz Thompson.
Issac leading men from Miagima Village who are preparing to participate in a film about ritualised warfare.
The motivation for battle , rather than the acquisition of land, was generally to placate ancestral spirits. If a warrior was injured by a spear then a number of incisions were made in the skin around the wound...
"The last incision was different in being made close to the site of the etai-eken, soul matter or 'seeds of singing'. Besides taking the precaution of removing any dark blood ( internal bleeding) that may have found it's way into the etai-eken area, this is done to coak the etai-eken themselves back where they belong. When a man is seriously wounded , his relatives and friends imagine that the greatest potential danger lies in the possibility of the etai-eken being dislodged. To return them to their proper place may require the efforts and skills of more than one man. The specialist who had made the punctures may not be the person to recall the etai-eken. Whoever is designated or volunteers speaks to the etai-eken by blowing and murmering in the victim's ear. he calls to them to return to their proper place and points to it with a small wand of tied grass called aiginam, which he holds against the forsaken solar plexus."
R. Gardner and K.G.Heider. Gardens of War, Random House. New York . 1968 p 140
To keep the spirits of the dead happy it is customary for Dani to have one or two fingers cut off at the knuckle after death of a close relative. By knocking the elbow, the hand is numbed and then the finger is a removed with a small adze. The fingers are kept in the ashes of the funeral pyre and the rest of the hand is bound with leaves. Men sometimes slice off the top of their ears in a similar gesture of mourning and reconciliation with the spirits of the dead.
Â© Liz Thompson
On my first visit to Elegeima village in the Baliem Valley , most of the men wore traditional penis gourds plucked from a local vine, women dressed in colourful skirts made of rolled bark and orchid vine. When the Indonesian government introduced 'Operation Koteka' ( Koteka being the Indonesian word for gourd) banning penis gourds the elders refused to give up their traditional dress and the attempt was abandoned. Today, Indonesian stall holders sell penis gourds along with pig tusks, grass skirts and other cultural objects , to a steady flow of tourists whilst the Indonesian government now promotes West Papua as 'The land of the unexpected' cashing in on culture, having recognised it's commercial potential and dollar value .
Wamena Market .
'By the year 2000 human society promises to vary little from continent to continent. Transportation and communication will link the remotest valley and farthest plateau with centres of technology. Deserts will be watered and marshes drained, and the cultures that developed in response to isolation and hardship will have disappeared'
R. Gardner and K.G Heider, Gardens of War, Random House, New York, 1968.