After last week’s photo in the school in Papua New Guinea, I thought I’d follow up with this one of me meeting the elders on the same trip, when I was a student. I spent a few weeks one summer vacation with some fellow students doing research in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea as part of our university courses.
As I was studying history, part of my course was a dissertation on ‘First Contact’ in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. I found a local student who acted as my translator and conducted loads of interviews with the old men of the village about their memories of the first time they saw a white man, which was only in the 1940s. Around that time, steel began to be traded into the area – before that stone axes were the norm and shells were the local currency.
During this interview we had a lot of laughs with this old boy in the pith helmet. At one point he started mock-attacking me, to show me how he chopped at the necks of tribesmen over the hill who they were often at war with.
If you want to find it on a map, I was in Taguru Village in Pangia District of the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, way beyond where the tourists go. Mind you, it may have changed a bit since I was there 20 years ago, but I think Papua New Guinea’s still pretty off the beaten track, as a tourist destination. Any of you out there been to Papua New Guinea?