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Notes from a paradise (West Papua and Papua New Guinea) by a Mumbay artist



The Mumbai-based artist Garima Gupta – Supplied

Jayapura, Jubi/The Asian Age – The Birds of Paradise of Papua New Guinea, a highly sought-after bird species, have amused the humans worldwide with their mating dances. After reading Alfred Russel Wallace’s The Malay Archipelago, illustrator and self-taught birder Garima Gupta was compelled to visit West Papua in 2014.

The Mumbai-based artist says, “Wallace, who is credited for the theory of sexual selection through female choice, along with Charles Darwin, spent a considerable amount of time studying these birds.” She adds, “Unique to the island of New Guinea, the birds’ dimorphic form (condition where the two sexes of the same species exhibit different characteristics) is dictated by the evolutionary changes. As a result, the males are the more pompous creatures with highly complicated plumes and a wide-ranging vocal repository. I was keen on seeing them in their natural habitat,” says Garima.

In 2015, the rainforests in Indonesia had caught a devastating fire. To gauge the tragedy, Garima returned to Papua New Guinea in 2016, and over a period of five months, did extensive research. “I returned from Papua New Guinea and West Papua with files filled with recordings, of meetings. Two years ago, I met Zeth Wonggor in the rainforests of the Arfak Mountains of West Papua. A former hunter, Zeth has been guiding people like me who wish to see the Birds of Paradise in the remote corners of the rainforest for the past 20 years.”

Garima also stayed in remote rainforest villages with no electricity and living on diet chiefly consisting of boiled vegetables. “I had never lived in such a remote place and that in itself was quite an experience. There was no electricity; only solar panels were chiefly used to communicate with the outside world,” she adds.

Her ongoing exhibition consisting of sketches and animations (Minutes of the Meeting), at Clark House Initiative, places the birds as the centrepiece of a conversation on historical narrative of ecological damage in South-east Asian and Western Pacific. “I borrowed the term (minutes of a meeting) from my grandmother’s lexicon. It was a sizeable part of her job — she travelled home after long hours of multiple meetings. I grew up watching her conduct these jargon-filled meetings. The words were so dense, they resembled a suffocating noise. And strangely enough, everything apart from these words was filled with nuance,” she explains as the reason behind the title of her exhibiton.

“All across Europe,” she explains, “Since the 1550’s, the colourful Birds of Paradise from the Far East mesmerised the European elite and came to symbolise the age of knowledge and scientific inquiry. Trading of these birds as specimens and feathers for fashionable hats was a common sight till early 1900s. As the West grew ecologically conscious, societies like RSPB in England and the Audubon in USA became instrumental in banning hunting of Birds of Paradise for plumes. However, illegal trade still flourishes behind closed doors and specimens continue to travel to European countries till today.”

However, Garima says that her intention was less of an anthropologist or an ornithologist. “I wanted to have a more human-to-human approach, understanding the people’s stories that are often missed by he mainstream media,” she says. Which brought her to the hunters. “We keep talking about the problem of hunting and poaching, but who are these people and why do they do what they do? These are things that I wanted to know,” she explains. She will be continuing her research for two more years and won’t restrict herself to any one medium — sketches or animations — and plans to eventually put up her work on some social media platform. “The idea is to make these stories accessible to everyone who is interested,” she concludes. (*)

This article wrote by Somudra Banerjee


Arts & Culture

Archaeological research to reveal cultural history in Papua and West Papua



Megalithic Tutari site – Jubi

Jayapura, Jubi – There is not much archaeological research have done in the provinces of Papua and West Papua. Therefore, the Archeological Centre of Papua Province has deployed researchers to conduct archaeological research that took place in several areas in both provinces.

The areas of research are the Berau Bay of Fak-fak Regency, Fort du Bus of Kaimana Regency, Yahoto prehistoric cave, Beanenbala Naguhi 1 Cave, Beanembala Naguhi 2 Cave of Keerom Regency and Srobu Mountain site of Jayapura Municipality. The research also traced the Austronesian speakers in Nabire Regency, the early prehistoric residential trails in Sentani Lake as well as explored the cultural footprint of Austronesian speakers in Raja Ampat Regency.

The researchers then presented their findings on 11-12 December 2018 in a hotel located in Jayapura City.

In his presentation,a researcher Klementin Fairyo who led the expedition to the prehistoric cave sites in Keerom Regency explained that the purpose of his research is to discover the function of the cave based on the cultural findings as well as to know the cultural characteristic of people living in the border of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

“There are a lot of caves found in the border area of Papua and Papua New Guinea, and this needs further investigation,” he said on Wednesday (12/12/2018) in Jayapura.

Meanwhile, Hari Suroto who led an identification of early prehistoric settlement in Sentani Lake area said the lake has produced many sources of food and become a source of clean water for people living nearby.

In the meantime, the Head of the Papua Archeology Centre Drs. Gusti Made Sudamika made an analogy that Papua is like a virgin who has not been touched by humans. Therefore, the archaeologists in Papua should conduct further research in this region.

“And the priority of research would not only cover the coastal areas but the mountainous areas as well, precisely the Baliem Valley, Wamena,” he said.(*)

Reporter: David Sobolim

Editor: Pipit Maizier

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Arts & Culture

Expo – Waena Museum and Arts Centre, the forgotten asset



Expo-Waena Arts Centre – Jubi /

Artists and cultural observers of Papua encourage the revitalisation of Expo-Waena Museum and Arts Centre.

the museum and arts centre where located in the city border –the border between Jayapura Municipality and Jayapura Regency—is supposed to be able to accommodate all activities related to arts and cultural performances, such as traditional music concerts, culturally related discussions, painting and other art exhibitions, literary and journalism activities, et cetera.

Titus Krist Pekei, the initiator of noken recognition to UNESCO, told Jubi on Wednesday, 7 November 2018, that Papua Provincial Government should pay serious attention to this museum.

According to him, if the museum is well-managed, it would become the arts and cultural centre of Papua Province. Further, It should accommodate all culturally related activities, ideas and creative works of Papuan tribes. “It would become an entrance for people to get to know Papua,” he said.

He further asked the Cultural Office of Papua Province to have a partnership with all parties to revive the activities and art performance in this art centre and museum. “Don’t think it only belongs to civil servants, but everyone who has talent,” said Pekei who’s also the Director of Papua’s Ecology.

He took the Noken museum which built several years ago as an example. “The Ministry of Cultural and Education handed over the management of Noken Museum to Papua Government, and the government then assigned it to the Noken Papua Foundation. However, it’s not clear for the Expo-Waena Museum,” said Pekei.

Expo-Waena Museum and Arts Centre was established in the 1980s and the late 1990 and used as a location for development exhibitions in Papua in the 1980s and late 1990s. In 2013, the building was planned to be restored and became the office of Papua People’s Assembly.

The museum has nine main buildings including pavilions for displaying the cultural artefacts of Jayapura, Manokwari, Biak, Jayawijaya, Merauke, Nabire, Serui, Sorong, dan Fakfak. It holds more than three thousand collections of ten types of cultural artefacts, historical and ethnographical objects and other art collections.

Sometimes ago a film community Papuan Voice held a discussion and film screening at Expo – Waena Museum and Art Centre. However, now the museum neglects. Some local artists think it should not happen due to its contribution to the local artists to express their creativity. This place should be well-maintained.
“If talking about art and culture, local artists could not be separated with this place,” said the Secretary of Papuan Arts Council Septinus Rumasep to Jubi in an occasion.

Meanwhile, the Papuan parliament member John N. R. Gobay said the museum and art centre is a crucial asset that has forgotten. This art centre has not occupied since 1996.

“It’s an asset of Papua Provincial Cultural Office. It reflects the Papuan culture and identity. We cannot talk about a nation whose cultural identity is destroyed,” said Gobay who was a former Chairman of Paniai Customary Council.

Moreover, he said the Expo-Waena Art Centre must have art shops that selling traditional souvenirs, cafes, and a library that provides books about Papua. Thus, this will become a cultural centre of Papua. Therefore, he asked the Papua Provincial Government to revitalise it.

“The government should relocate people living near the museum. The government is responsible for protecting the local culture through this art centre. Therefore the regulation No. 8 could be implemented,” he said.

He also appealed the artists to establish an advocacy team and plan a meeting with the governor and parliament member for the revitalization of museum and art centre. “I asked the provincial government to support this by clearing the complex of museum and art centre in Jayapura City,” he said.

Meanwhile, a Papuan artist Semi Simson said the Papua Provincial Government do not pay attention to this museum since long time ago. They must revive this complex as Papuan cultural centre. (*)

Reporter: Hengky Yeimo
Editor: Pipit Maizier


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Arts & Culture

Native languages of Jayapura Municipality threatened with extinction



Illustration of Enggros Village in Jayapura –

Jayapura, Jubi – Some local or native languages in Jayapura Municipality threaten to be extinct if not immediately protected.

“There are many native Papuan languages in Tanah Tabi (Jayapura Municipality), namely Sentani, Nafri, Tobati Enggros, Kayu Pulo and Skouw languages. In general, except for Sentani language, the sustainability of these languages is quite apprehensive,” said Suharyanto, a senior researcher from the Indonesian Language Center of Papua and West Papua on Friday (05/10/2018) in Jayapura City.

Moreover, he said the Indonesian Language Center for Papua and West Papua Area had research on Nafri and Tobati Enggross languages in Jayapura Municipality in 2003 and 2004.

“In the case of Nafri language, if there is no serious action taken by speakers and the state, it is estimated that in the next three generations this language would become extinct. It is similar for Tobati Enggros and Kayu Pulo languages,” he said.

Meanwhile, regarding Kayu Pulo language, although it has not been studied yet, but based on the proximity of the place and the number of speakers, it can be concluded also be threatened with extinction.

The endangered of these three regional languages, he continued, is related to the decline in the number of speakers, its locations, the use of language and people’s assimilation.

Furthermore, Suharyanto said a solution to protect the native languages in Tanah Tabi is to include it in some learning materials in schools. “The municipal government has initiated an effort to protect the local languages by preparing the local content teaching materials or books to be taught at the elementary schools,” he said.  (*)

Source: Antara

Editor: Pipit Maizier


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