‘Isolated’ puts West Papua on the world stage

isolated-cannibal-interview-1024x576 (1)HOLLYWOOD heartthrob, Ryan Phillippe has made a loud call to action against human rights violations in West Papua in his new documentary Isolated.

Executive director of Isolated Ryan Phillippe is using his celebrity status to shine a light on the cause in West Papua in what has already become an award winning documentary.

In an online video, now being shared across the world Mr Phillippe pleaded with viewers to take up action by becoming an ‘isolated ambassador for peace’ and signing a White House petition.

Phillippe said that by signing the petition, they would force the Obama Administration in the US to address the human rights crisis in West Papua.

“An estimated 1 million Papuans have been slayed by the Indonesian military and as long as the world is left in the dark innocent lives will continue to be lost,” he told video viewers.

“Papuans endure torture and murder carried out by the Indonesian military every day for simply living on their land.

“They fear their cries of help will not be heard by the rest of the world, help us to get the word about genocide in West Papua by joining us to make the world’s largest social media petition to stop the senseless violence.”

What began as a surfing documentary, Isolated follows a group of surfer who’s trip soon becomes all too real when they encountered cannibals, discover human rights atrocities and expose an unethical mining corporation.

The film has now attracted mass media attention in US, CNN’s Piers Morgan in particular was taken by it and said Isolated would have a lot of effect.

West Papua is widely known as a journalist dead zone, only recently in August French journalists Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat were imprisoned by Indonesian authorities in West Papua for trying to report.

Phillippe said the lack of media in the region is one of the critical reasons why the world needs see this film.

“The existence of an entire culture is being threatened,” he said.

“Under the canopy of the densest rainforests in the world they thought they could keep it a secret from us.

“They think we don’t care, they actually believe that we won’t do something about it.

“Now it’s time to do something and it starts with you.”

The petition can be found at http://www.isolated.tv/

 

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Lost In Translation

Suringi lake, Enga.

Suringi lake, Enga.

Surunki

Surunki

My father had made it adamantly clear that we would be spending Christmas in the village this year. “You have to stay in touch with your roots,” he had said, while having what seemed to be an intense stare off with his smartphone. I hadn’t been up to the Highlands in years and my stays often consisted of allot of complaining from me (mostly about the dozens flea bites I usually accumulated from sleeping on the kunai house floor) but nevertheless I was excited.

This cheer was later overshadowed by a sudden realization that I had no idea how I was going to converse with my own family. I’d been abroad so long I couldn’t even speak my mother tongue anymore. I searched my early memories for some phrases and realized how terrible my pronunciation had become as I said them aloud. My tongue stumbled clumsily around the sounds – I might as well have been a tourist in some foreign country, asking for directions. I remembered how my auntie’s tongues would roll so effortlessly when they spoke, every time they parted their lips it was like a hypotonic rhythm had been released. I wasn’t even in the village yet and I could already see the disapproving scowl that assuredly would be worn on my grandfather’s face, it stung.  

Unfortunately, I’m not the only young person this seems to be happening to. Each year, languages across the country are dying with the elders who preserved them. In the age of modernization and Western-based education, increasing amounts of young Papua New Guineans don’t know their own local languages and speak only in Tok Pisin and English. Like many other post-colonial societies, PNG is still heavily influenced by western values and now hundred-year-old traditions that were once practiced by our ancestors are being opted out of in favor of white man’s ways.

 It’s sad to think that the customs and way of life of my tumbunas, of who’s blood runs in my veins is lost to me. I’ve become a foreigner to my own people, feeling more like a tourist than a part of the community. I often wonder what life would have been like if the white man had never invaded in 1884, would I be in that same flea ridden kunai house right now? Would I be happier?

Village elders always seem so content to me, my great grandmother in Enga is nearly 90 now and she always smiles at me with this kind of knowing in her eyes, like she’s been secretly clued in on the secrets of life I’m oblivious to. It truly is a misconception that village life is somehow a primitive thing to be ashamed of. The white way isn’t always the right way and I pray our emerging younger generation, myself included hold close to those ties of language and custom before it’s too late and they’re lost forever.ples

Laiagampng 055

The Big Chop

big chopA year ago I decided to make the journey back to my natural hair and after my phases of constantly changing hairstyles I have to say I have never felt more like myself. I still remember exactly what happened on the day of the big chop, I walked right up to the bathroom mirror, a pair of scissors gripped in my right hand and a determined gleam in my eye.  I had been smothering my hair with every chemical under the sun for as long as I could remember and even though it was falling past my shoulders, my hair was feeling unhealthy and lifeless. It was time for a new start.

I held nothing back, showed no mercy and shortly afterwards I was looking at the reflection of a very short haired but happy nonetheless version of myself. What had been my security blanket was now scattered across the bathroom floor. There was nothing left to hide behind now but I liked it.

It’s been months since then and now my hair has become a jungle of it’s own. Each curl grows wildly on its own will, some low and some high, as if reaching for the sun. My hair is happier now, I can feel it and after years of trying to get it to look more long and straight like something you might see in those shampoo commercials, I realized how beautiful my natural self really is.

Natural hair isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it’s interesting to think about as to why so many black women all over the world seem to detest their natural hair. From weaves and extensions to chemical relaxers, the hair industry seems to be coming up with new  ‘solutions’ every few years specifically targeted at black woman. In the US alone black woman purchase 80% of all hair care products despite only making up a measly 7% of the population.

When you think about it, that’s allot of time and money spent just so we can match up with very diluted standards of ‘beauty’ that clearly favor Western or white ideals. When you turn on your TV or flip open a page of a magazine you’ll surely see the same girl – skinny with long glossy long hair and most notably she’ll be white. It’s unfair to hold colored woman to these standards because we are inherently different but in equally beautiful ways not traditionally recognized by the modern world.

Black women’s hair rises by nature. It blossoms against the current of life. At its best, it swirls and spins like the earth, or the sun – a supernova of sublimity and strength.


Will the buai ban increase crime? Many locals think yes.

Thirteen days into the betelnut ban in Port Moresby and the city has never looked cleaner, but has this perk come with it’s own heavy price? After sitting and talking with many of the buai sellers in my neck of the woods, I’ve noticed a common underlying theme in most discussions. People here are convinced that the ban will bring an increased pressure on the already most impoverished parts of the community.

Crime is driven by poverty in Moresby and by taking away what is the sole source of income for many sellers, the government is pushing an already desperate group of people towards the edge. 

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Silas Nada has been selling buai for years in the 3-mile area and believes that if enforced, the new ban will bring nothing but more crime to the community. “If anything, things will get worse here. Street boys will have no other option but to resort to stealing to get the money they need to survive.”

And surely as if he predicted it, a week later after our conversation, armed robbers stole a whopping K5.8 million from a G4S security van. Many struggling buai sellers like Silas are still adamant that police threats and fines won’t stop them from selling, “How else am I going to survive in this city? I have no education and life here is so expensive”.

Many young women are also worried that the absence of busy markets in the more rough areas of the city will leave their safety at increased risk. Elise Lond lives and often makes her commute to school through such an area and is scared that thieves will have more opportunities to run rampant once local buai sellers are pushed out. “If something happens it’s normally the buai sellers who go and help and stop them. Woman are going to be even more vulnerable, we’re easy targets so they’ll pull our bags or even kidnap us for ransom…People will do anything when they’re desperate.”

No more buai?

Heading home to Port Moresby for a week or so to visit family and hopefully I’ll get to interview some people for a social news story I’m writing on the effects of betelnut. Found this interesting documentary on the subject on Youtube and thought I’d might share with you all.