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N 426 B 51.3K C 198 E Oct 1, 2021 F Mar 10, 2018
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Editors' Favorite, National Geographic Yourshot, September 2018. Assignment: “Everyday Moments.”

© All rights to these photos and descriptions are reserved and protected by international copyright laws. Any use of this work requires my prior written permission.

Dani women with carrying nets prepare a traditional Melanesian cooking pit lined with grass and heated stones of fine grain limestone. The occasion is a Papuan pig feast that took place inside the oval courtyard of a Dani compound, set high in a remote corner of West Papua's central highlands, 1600m/5200ft above sea level - "Grand Valley" of the Balim River, Irian Jaya, Indonesia.

The Cooking Pit
The main steam bundle was built up with alternate layers of wet long grass, pork, a whole pig skin with its heavy layer of fat, vegetables, ferns and more heated rocks. Water was poured on the rocks from a gourd to make more steam. Banana leaves were added to several of these layers to help capture the steam.

Smaller grass-wrapped steam bundles containing sweet potatoes, vegetables and other greens from the elaborate gardens nearby were also placed in the pit. One of the small steam bundles can be seen at the centre of activity around the smoldering pit.

This preparatory process took about an hour, then another hour or more for the cooking, and several more hours for food distribution and feasting. The entire process took close to a full day that included a ritualized killing of the piglet with a bow and arrow, a gathering of materials for the earth oven (wood, grass, stones, food), making the fire, and heating the stones.

It is the men's role to kill the pig, make the fire, prepare the heated stones, undo the steam bundles, cut the pig skin into strips with a sharpened bamboo knife, and distribute the food according to a predetermined pattern of exchange and reciprocity among members from this and several other neighbouring compounds or hamlets. The piglet was provided in exchange for a full day’s solo access to this Dani compound.

The Gardens
The sweet potato (over 70 varieties) accounts for about 90% of their diet. The gardens involve complex mazes of sophisticated irrigation ditches cut deeply across the fertile grand valley floor. Sharpened, fire-hardened digging sticks are used to weed and maintain the gardens. Both men and women spend most of their working lives in the gardens.

Finger Mutilation
The segments of four fingers on the left hand of the woman at the centre of activity were cut off as a child as a traditional form of sacrificial grieving or mourning for a close relative who had died. Most females above the age of about ten have lost four to six fingers in connection with funerals and efforts at impressing, placating or driving away the ghost of the deceased.

Finger mutilation or the traditional practice of chopping fingers off at the first joint is now officially banned, although it seems likely that this longstanding neolithic cultural practice continues today in a few isolated pockets of the region.

Ethnographic accounts indicate that daily life for a woman in Dani culture is largely limited to a routine of drudgery that generally appears to have a sullen or depressive effect on most women.

First Contact
The indigenous peoples of West Papua migrated from southeast Asia and the Australian continent about 30,000 to 50,000 years ago during the Ice Age when sea levels were lower and distances between islands shorter.

Western "first contact” with the Grand Valley Dani was established in 1938 during American-led botanical and zoological explorations the central highlands, less than sixty years before this photograph was taken.

Today, about 50,000 Dani live in small compound clusters or settlements scattered across the fertile and densely populated "Grand Valley" of the Balim River (about 40 miles long by 10 miles wide) in West Papua's central highlands.

Trembling on the Edge of Change
The Grand Valley Dani are accomplished gardeners and pig farmers with a Neolithic (late Stone Age) culture and technology that anthropologists see as "trembling on the edge of change.” They have relied on polished stone adzes and axes, sharpened pig tusks, bamboo knives, and fire-hardened digging sticks - tools that are gradually being replaced with iron and steel.

Accelerated contact with the outside world is inevitable. The road from the coast up to the grand valley and beyond has been under construction for more than two decades and is near completion. Little has been done to prepare indigenous Papuans for the expected influx of migrant outsiders from other over-populated islands (especially Java) under Indonesia’s state-sponsored transmigration resettlement programme.

The autonomous and culturally distinct peoples of this remote region are on the brink of sweeping social change. Completion of the road up from Jayapura on the coast, alienation of the land to outsiders, lumbering, organized tourism, the advent of cash and alcohol, expanding state intrusion into indigenous Papuan affairs, the inundation of permanent Asian transmigrants with competing outsider beliefs and practices - all pose a serious and growing challenge to the traditional Papuan way of life and very survival as an independent and culturally unique indigenous nation.

High resolution Noritsu Koki QSS digital film scan, shot with a compact semi-automatic Pentax Zoom 35mm point-and-shoot pocket camera, film developed in a Sulawesi street-corner shophouse, circa 1996.

~~~

Ethnographic efforts at demystifying Dani Neolithic cultural practices and ritualized inter-clan warfare in the region are associated with the early ground-breaking Harvard-Peabody Expedition, 1961-63. They include Anthropologist Karl Heider’s accounts in “The Dugum Dani: A Papuan Culture in the Highlands of West New Guinea,” Aldine Publishing (1970); and “Grand Valley Dani: Peaceful Warriors” (Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology), Wadsworth Publishing (1996). Also, filmmaker Robert Gardner’s classic social documentary, “Dead Birds” (1965), and writer Peter Matthiessen’s gripping first-hand accounts in “Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons in Stone Age New Guinea,” Viking Press (1962).

This photograph pays homage to the extraordinary black-and-white analog images of West Papua’s Yali and Korowai peoples that appear in the epic “Genesis” project and publication (Taschen, 2013) by eminent social documentary photographer and photojournalist, Sebastião Salgado.

Social Documentary | Fluidr Faves | National Geographic

Flickr Gallery: The Power of Documentary Portraiture

Tags:   Dani courtyard compound valley Balim River West Papua central highlands Irian Jaya Indonesia pig pit cooking vanishing cultures stone age culture tribe ethnography New Guinea bodyart indigenous street documentary portrait portraiture clan ethnic jewelry South Pacific Oceania earth oven cooking pit Melanesia tradition People neolithic DavidSchweitzer DocumentaryPhotography StreetPhotography HumanInterest PhotoJournalism VisualAnthropology black&white monochrome film analog

N 278 B 24.6K C 109 E Dec 1, 1903 F Aug 4, 2015
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Editors' Favorite, National Geographic Yourshot, July 2018. Assignment: “Not Just a Face."

"To possess the world in the form of images is, precisely, to re-experience the unreality and remoteness of the the real." Susan Sontag, On Photography

An eldely Dani woman with a sharpened, fire-hardened digging stick pauses for a moment from work in an elaborat sweet potato garden near her compound high in a remote corner of West Papua's central highlands, 1600m/5200ft above sea level - "Grand Valley" of the Balim River, Irian Jaya, Indonesia.

Mourning and Finger Mutilation
The segments of two fingers on each hand were cut off as a child as a traditional form of sacrificial grieving or mourning for a close relative who had died. Most females above the age of about ten have lost four to six fingers in connection with funerals and efforts at impressing, placating or driving away the ghost of the deceased.

Finger mutilation or the traditional practice of chopping fingers off at the first joint is now officially banned, although it seems likely that this longstanding neolithic cultural practice continues today in a few isolated pockets of the region.

Ethnographic accounts indicate that daily life for a woman in Dani culture is largely limited to a routine of drudgery that appears to have a sullen or depressive effect on most women.

The Gardens
The Grand Valley Dani are accomplished gardeners and pig farmers with a neolithic (late Stone Age) culture and technology. They rely on polished stone adzes and axes, sharpened pig tusks, bamboo knives, and fire-hardened digging sticks - tools that are gradually being replaced with iron and steel.

The gardens involve complex mazes of sophisticated irrigation ditches cut deeply across the fertile grand valley floor. The sweet potato (over 70 varieties) accounts for about 90% of their diet. Digging sticks are used to weed and maintain the gardens. Both men and women spend most of their working lives in the gardens.

First Contact
The indigenous peoples of West Papua migrated from southeast Asia and the Australian continent about 30,000 to 50,000 years ago during the Ice Age when sea levels were lower and distances between islands shorter.

Western "first contact” with the Grand Valley Dani was established in 1938 during American-led botanical and zoological explorations the central highlands, less than sixty years before this photograph was taken.

Today, about 50,000 Dani live in small compound clusters or settlements scattered across the fertile and densely-populated "Grand Valley" of the Balim River (about 40 miles long by 10 miles wide) in West Papua's central highlands.

High resolution Noritsu Koki QSS digital film scan, shot with a compact Pentax pocket camera, film developed in a Sulawesi street-corner shophouse, circa 1996.

© All rights to these photos and descriptions are reserved and protected by international copyright laws. Any use of this work requires my prior written permission.

~~~

Ethnographic efforts at demystifying Dani neolithic cultural practices and ritualized inter-clan warfare in the region are associated with the early ground-breaking Harvard-Peabody Expedition, 1961-63. They include Anthropologist Karl Heider’s accounts in “The Dugum Dani: A Papuan Culture in the Highlands of West New Guinea,” Aldine Publishing (1970); and “Grand Valley Dani: Peaceful Warriors” (Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology), Wadsworth Publishing (1996). Also, filmmaker Robert Gardner’s classic social documentary, “Dead Birds” (1965), and writer Peter Matthiessen’s gripping first-hand accounts in “Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons in Stone Age New Guinea,” Viking Press (1962).

Flickr Gallery: The Power of Documentary Portraiture

Social Documentary | Fluidr Faves | National Geographic


Tags:   Papua Dani Indonesia Balim Irian Jaya Melanesia highlands Oceania indigenous tribe culture ethnic portrait context portraiture street documentary stick clan mourning grieving finger mutilation travel gaze dramatic South Pacific Oceanea Grand Valley vanishing cultures hands DavidSchweitzer DocumentaryPhotography StreetPhotography HumanInterest VisualAnthropology DocumentaryPortrait StreetPortrait PhotoJournalism People analog black&white monochrome film

N 130 B 20.3K C 21 E Nov 1, 2012 F Jul 18, 2019
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© All rights to these photos and descriptions are reserved

A Dani war chief passes through the oval courtyard of a traditional fortress-like compound as he prepares for a ritualized mock battle that is about to take place high in a remote corner of West Papua's central highlands, 1600m/5200ft above sea level - Grand Valley of the Balim River, Irian Jaya, Indonesia. Digital film scan, shot with a Pentax point-and-shoot pocket camera directly under the noonday sun, circa 1996.

Battle Dress
He is adorned with a large decorated bib of nassa (snail) shells, an upturned boar’s tusk nose piece, rare bird-of-paradise plumes and other feathers, a bailer shell chest piece (with smaller shell pieces attached to a tightly woven bush-twine neck band of cowrie shells), an ornamental wristband of finely woven pandanus fibres, arm bands of dog fur, and the iconic long koteka or penis gourd – all part of traditional Dani ornamentation and battle dress. His forehead is smeared with a thick layer of charcoal-blackened pig grease.

Ritualized Warfare
Many Dani elders in the valley today were once engaged in an elaborate system of ritualized warfare, organized around changing political alliances and large shifting confederations across the Grand Valley. War was embedded in Dani culture as a constant and immediate part of everyday life. Brawls, feuds, and wars would begin with conflicts between individuals that would escalate to prolonged intergroup fighting.

Much of the fighting ended in the 1960's under an enforced Indonesian government pacification programme, although it is likely that certain forms of traditional fighting still occurred in isolated pockets of the region up to the late 1990's. Most fighting is now expressed through mock combat rituals that includes women and children in some of the ritualized running patterns.

Change and Resistance
The sophisticated Neolithic (late Stone Age) culture and politics of indigenous West Papuans are on the brink of sweeping social change. Accelerated contact with the outside world is inevitable. The road from the coast up to the highlands and beyond has been under construction for more than two decades and is near completion. Little has been done to prepare indigenous Papuans for the inundation of permanent Asian migrants from other over-populated islands (especially Java) under Indonesia’s official state-sponsored transmigration resettlement programme.

Alienation of the land to foreign mining interests, organized tourism, the advent of cash and alcohol, and expanding state intrusion into indigenous Papuan affairs - all pose compounding challenges to the traditional Papuan way of life and very survival as an independent and culturally distinct indigenous nation.

Repression and Insurgency
Indonesian state control in West Papua today is particularly reminiscent of earlier times in the Americas and elsewhere when aboriginal peoples were contained through a colonization strategy of political subjugation and cultural assimilation.

Indigenous Papuan resistance in the highlands has taken several forms, ranging from mass protests and sporadic hostage-taking to low-level guerrilla warfare and a loosely organized yet persistent political movement for separation and the creation of an independent Papuan state within Indonesia.

At the time of this photoshoot (February 1996), indigenous insurgents of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) had abducted 12 European and Indonesian nationals on a biodiversity research expedition to the highlands in an adjoining tribal region just 70 kilometres away from the photoshoot site, roughly five days by foot through rugged mountainous terrain. They were held as hostages in secluded forests, moving slowly by foot across ridges and river valleys from one makeshift prison camp to another as members of the International Red Cross tried unsuccessfully to mediate the crisis.

The Papuan insurgents conducted the raid with bows and arrows and a handful of guns. Indonesian Army Special Forces finally launched a hostage rescue operation with limited success. The controversial South African mercenary group, Executive Outcomes, provided both training and operational advice. Papuan resistance still continues to this day.

First Contact
The indigenous peoples of West Papua migrated from southeast Asia and the Australian continent about 30,000 to 50,000 years ago during the Ice Age when sea levels were lower and distances between islands were shorter. Western "first contact” with West Papua's Grand Valley Dani was established in 1938 during American-led botanical and zoological expeditions to the central highlands, less than sixty years before this photograph was taken.

~~~
Ethnographic efforts at demystifying Dani Neolithic cultural practices and ritualized warfare in the region are associated with the early ground-breaking 1961 Harvard-Peabody Expedition. They include anthropologist Karl Heider’s accounts in “The Dugum Dani: A Papuan Culture in the Highlands of West New Guinea,” Aldine Publishing (1970) and “Grand Valley Dani: Peaceful Warriors” (Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology), Wadsworth Publishing (1996); also filmmaker Robert Gardner’s classic ethnographic documentary, “Dead Birds” (1965); Peter Matthiessen’s “Under the Mountain Wall: A Chronicle of Two Seasons in Stone Age New Guinea,” Viking Press (1962.

Flickr Gallery: The Power of Documentary Portraiture

Portraiture | Fluidr Faves | BodyArt

Tags:   Dani Balim Papua highlands Irian Indonesia culture tribe ethnography anthropology Guinea bodyart indigenous street documentary portrait portraiture clan warfare Pacific Oceania outdoor vanishing cultures war chief cooking pit earth oven Melanesia tradition explore Neolithic stone-age DavidSchweitzer DocumentaryPhotography StreetPhotography HumanInterest VisualAnthropology PhotoJournalism people DocumentaryPortrait StreetPortrait analog VanishingCultures black&white monochrome film

N 920 B 88.7K C 65 E Jan 1, 1972 F Mar 4, 2021
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A Balinese duck tender with traditional wide-brim rain hat under a light monsoon drizzle returns from the paddy fields along a path through the original Monkey Forest near Padang Tegal Village, Ubud, Bali. Digital slide scan, shot with an Asahi Pentax Spotmatic (SMC Pentax Zoom 45~125mm f/4) before modernization and the onslaught of mass tourism began to compromise much of Ubud's original charm, circa 1972. explore#32

© All rights to these photos and descriptions are reserved and protected by international copyright laws. Any use of this work requires my prior written permission.

Street Portraits | Social Documentary | Fluidr Faves

Flickr Gallery: The Power of Documentary Portraiture

Tags:   Bali duck tender herder Monkey Forest Padang Tegal Ubud Indonesia Southeast Asia rain monsoon lush green wet-season people DavidSchweitzer DocumentaryPhotography StreetPhotography HumanInterest VisualAnthropology PhotoJournalism explore Portrait street film analog asia indigenous Faces travel outdoor DocumentaryPortrait StreetPortrait

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Adorned with a wild boar's tusk, facial chalk markings, decorated goat-skin clothing and an ornamental clay lip-plate. Shot at a communal dance in a Mursi semi-nomadic pastoral settlement on the bank of the Mago River, a tributary that joins the essential Omo River in a remote corner of southwestern Ethiopia.

On the meaning of lip-plates in Mursi culture and society
The Mursi are one of the last groups in Africa where women still wear large wooden or clay plates in their lower lips. Most Mursi women wear lip-plates as an aesthetic symbol of cultural pride and identity, signifying passage to womanhood/adulthood. They are more frequently worn by unmarried or newly wed women and are generally worn when serving men food or during important ritual events (weddings, men's duelling competitions, communal dances, safari photo-ops).

Debunking popular myths
Contrary to popular opinion among travellers and other passing strangers, ethnographers found little or no connection between the size of a woman’s lip-plate and the size of her bridewealth (cattle, guns).

Anthropologists and ethnographers have debunked another popular myth surrounding the lip-plate in this region. They found no evidence that the labret originated as a deliberate attempt to disfigure and make women less attractive to slave traders, yet this myth seems to surface regularly in accounts by professional and amateur photographers, tourists, and bloggers alike.

The Mursi and Mursiland
The Mursi are semi-nomadic farmers and herders who depend on shifting hoe-cultivation (mostly drought-resistant varieties of sorghum) and cattle herding for their livelihood. They number less than ten thousand today.

Most Mursi live in small settlements dispersed across Mursiland, a remote territory of about thirty by eighty kilometres between the Omo and Mago Rivers in southwestern Ethiopia, near the border with South Sudan and northern Kenya.

The terrain varies from a volcanic plain dominated by a range of hills and a major watershed to a riverine forest, wooded grasslands and thorny bushland thickets. The climate is harsh and unstable with low rainfall and daily temperatures regularly exceeding 40°C in the shade during the dry season.

~~~
Excellent ethnographic accounts on the meaning of lip-plates in Mursi culture and society include:
• David Turton, "Lip plates and the people who take photographs: uneasy encounters between Mursi and tourists in southern Ethiopia", Anthropology Today, 20:3, 3-8, 2004.
• Shauna Latosky, "Reflections on the lip-plates of Mursi women as a source of stigma and self-esteem", in Ivo Strecker and Jean Lydall (eds.) The perils of face: Essays on cultural contact, respect and self-esteem in southern Ethiopia, Mainzer Beiträge zur Afrika-Forschung, Lit Verlag, Berlin, 2006, pp. 371-386.
"To possess the world in the form of images is, precisely, to re-experience the unreality and remoteness of the the real."
Susan Sontag, On Photography

Documentary Portraiture | Fluidr Faves | National Geographic

Flickr Gallery: The Power of Documentary Portraiture

BodyArt

Tags:   Mursi mother labret lip-plate lip-disc lip-plug BodyArt body piercing body modification Ethiopia Omo Faces Africa indigenous ethnic tribe people Afrique African jewellery davidschweitzer aesthetics portrait documentary VanishingCultures human interest DocumentaryPhotography StreetPhotography VisualAnthropology PhotoJournalism DocumentaryPortrait StreetPortrait Street


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