Who Are You?

Glad that you are here now on my web site. I am exhibiting these 2 photographs, taken in Papua, Indonesia at the All Media Show in the CAP Gallery at the Wells Fargo Bank in Laguna Beach (through September 7th).

I remain surprised and delighted by people’s warmth, receptivity, and curiosity about ‘outside visitors’ coming into their tribal villages. Without the use of a common language, there is not only a dependency on the local guide, but an emphasis on what gets translated through gestures – a smile; curious eyes; a bow or hand shake; and sometimes a spontaneous hug. When my family traveled last summer to Papua (AKA Irian Jaya), we asked our local guide, John, from the Dani tribe himself, if we could go ‘inside’ a village and spend time with the local people. He suggested that with a contribution of $100 to the tribe, an up-close and special encounter would be possible.

Little did we know at the time, how special our private visit would become. We were greeted by a group of naked men wearing penis gourds (made from inedible fruits with a hard, tannish-colored rind and decorated with rings of red, blue, and yellow thread with several feathers on the end). They greeted us with an enactment of tribal warfare on the outskirts of their village. Initially, we wondered if this ‘visit’ would be more for traditional tourists. Fortunately, we were pleasantly surprised.

Upon entering the village we were greeted by approximately 65 people, including men, women, and children of all ages who danced to the beat of a drum and welcomed us.

I took each of these photographs that afternoon on August 23, 2011. The PAPUA WARRIOR was wearing a penis gourd and looking at me as if to say, ‘Who are you?’ I purposely moved my (EOS 50D Canon) camera (taken with a 24-105 mm lens) to both capture and accentuate the swirls of color and bonds of connection between the women in the photograph entitled ‘Dancing Circle’. I spent the rest of the afternoon saying ‘Wa Wa Wa’ (the Dani tribal greeting for ‘hi’) and ‘Sal la’ (meaning ‘great’). The men showed their skill in killing a pig (in our honor). The women carefully prepared a pit filled with sticks and leaves for roasting the pig. It is a very special occasion for this village to eat meat. We left the village while the people were enjoying their meal with images and memories that will last a lifetime.

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