In 1961, filmmaker Robert Gardner organized the Harvard Peabody Expedition to Netherlands New Guinea (today West Papua). Funded by the Dutch colonial government and private donations, and consisting of several wealthy Americans wielding 16mm film cameras, still photographic cameras, reel-to-reel tape recorders, and a microphone, the expedition settled for five months in the Baliem Valley, among the Hubula people. It resulted in Gardner’s influential film DEAD BIRDS, two photo books, Peter Matthiessen’s book “Under the Mountain Wall,” and two ethnographic monographs. Michael Rockefeller, of the Standard Oil Rockefellers, was tasked with taking pictures and recording sound in and around the Hubula world. EXPEDITION CONTENT is an augmented sound work composed from 37 hours of tape, which document the strange encounter between the expedition and the Hubula people. The piece reflects on intertwined and complex historical moments in the development of approaches to multimodal anthropology, in the lives of the Hubula and of Michael, and in the ongoing history of colonialism in West Papua.
In West Papua, which encompasses the Papua and West Papua provinces of Indonesia, adat has been codified as an integral part of decentralised governance and development policies. Unlike other places where adat has been institutionalised, the institutionalisation of adat governance in West Papua is marked by contestation not only between different forms of adat institutions but also by competing political ideologies of national liberation. By tracing the history of various institutional frameworks in which adat and ‘adat communities’ are accommodated by the state, and elucidating non-state institutionalisation, this article demonstrates how adat remains a political battleground for various political actors in West Papua, including the Indonesian central government and Papuan independence movements. My article argues that the case of West Papua sets the limit for Indonesian adat discourses particularly in addressing Papuan articulations of their indigeneity and in accommodating demands for sovereignty.
This essay will focus on the works of Lab Laba-Laba, a film collective founded by a group of young filmmakers in Jakarta in March 2014. Occupying the decaying laboratory of the Indonesian State Production Film Center (PFN), Lab Laba-Laba salvages, develops, re-creates, re-prints, curates, and presents crates of celluloid from the state’s vaults to reveal material history of the country’s inglorious past. During the New Order’s rule (1966-1998), the authoritarian regime depended on the celluloid and its distribution control to erase the traces of brutal massacre of left wing intellectuals, filmmakers, peasants, workers and students in which the regime was founded on, and to represent itself as a legitimate ruler of the mind and heart of the people. The occupation of PFN, one of the most important nodes in the New Order’s medial system and the battles that follow will be considered in the context of Lab Laba-Laba’s interaction and fascination with the archive of authoritarianism and its rapid obsolescence.
In West Papua, a self-identifying term that refers to the provinces of Papua and West Papua, the remote and highly marginalized provinces of Indonesia, road construction does not merely represent a technological ambition or a means to deliver progress and development. With its rugged and mountainous terrain, West Papua has kept more than 261 Papuan ethnic groups isolated for long periods of time and made it one of the last territories in the world to be charted, mapped, and occupied by foreign forces. The construction of the Trans-Papua Highway should be seen in this way; it is meant as a conduit for progress as well as a political tool to chart, map and occupy the ungovernable. As an anthropologist, I passed through this difficult and fragile highway and drew a connection between the roads that I have taken, traces that the construction left and multiple possibilities of extraction that it allows.
The feminine grotesque is a central motif in the recent explosion of Indonesian horror films following the end of the New Order regime (1967-1998). Over 40 horror films have been produced in the last decade, constituting a major genre in the revival of the Indonesian film industry. Not since the 1970s and 1980s have horror films been so prominent. These contemporary films however maintain the staple themes of mixing comedy with horror and the theme of the vengeful female ghost, who returns from the dead to punish those who wronged her in life. Sen (1994) has argued that the use of female ghosts in Indonesian films is a way of dealing with the culturally problematic sexuality of women. In understanding the female ghosts as grotesque requires a consideration of the comedy of the horror films, especially the ways in which other characters, in particular male characters, interact with and react to the ghosts. This paper expands on Sen’s analysis by using Bhaktin's identification of ambivalence and folklore in the grotesque. Tracing the continuities and discontinuities with more traditional grotesque figures, this paper offers a new reading of the feminine grotesque in relation to broader political and social anxieties in contemporary Indonesian society.
Two events of highest significance in the context of global history of decolonisation are taking place in the Pacific: The first has been the gathering of 79 nations for the 8th Summit of ACP (the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States) heads of state and government in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, 30 May-June 1. Secondly, the twice postponed summit meeting of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) in Honiara, Solomon Islands, to decide on the application of the United Liberation Movement of West Papua (ULMWP) for full membership at the MSG. These two events raise an important question for both West Papuans and for the international community. Will West Papua have their moment of solidarity from MSG and ACP member states, their brothers and sisters who were once in the same predicament of colonialism, or will West Papua continue to be forgotten?