Life in the furthest recesses of New Guinea has not only been transformed but devastated by forces that originate at the core of global and industrial politics. The realities – and morality – of our world are to be seen starkly at work in one of the most spectacular, rich and yet remote corners of the world.
December 1, 1961: Fly the flag of independence – West Papua and the Indonesian Empire
About the author
Hugh Brody is an anthropologist and writer who holds the Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Studies at the University of the Fraser Valley. He has made a number of TV documentaries and co-wrote and directed the movie nineteen-nineteen.
Thursday, December 1, 2011, is the fiftieth anniversary of West Papua’s independence. On this day in 1961 West Papuans were granted their freedom by the Dutch – they raised a new national flag and sang a new national anthem. A year later Indonesia launched a colonial invasion, and managed to annex the fledgling nation. Since then tens of thousands of civilians – almost all of them indigenous tribal people – have been killed.
New Guinea is the second largest island in the world – about the size of Europe and stretching across the Pacific to the north of Australia. This is a land where life has proliferated and diversified: it is among the most fabulous cultural and ecological regions in the world. Human beings have lived there for at least 40,000 years, and, in the past ten thousand years, have developed many kinds of economy, from mixed hunting/farming, to slash-and-burn shifting agriculture, to dense and complex systems of cultivation. This wide range of human economies, with parallel riches of culture and language, means that New Guinea has witnessed the great journey of human experience and the great riches of the human mind.
The languages of New Guinea reveal an astonishing social complexity. Read more