Books about West Papua:
PAPUA BLOOD - A Photographer´s Eyewitness Account of West Papua Over 30 Years by Peter Bang
The book PAPUA BLOOD is a documentary account taking the reader through the western part of the island of New Guinea. Over an interval spanning three decades the author and photographer Peter Bang describes his experiences among the indigenous people of West Papua, who are threatened by a continuing history of genocide and extinction.
"... Excellent written with outstanding and valuable photos from a culture that one day will be gone. The author enlightens and entertains while delivering a deeply engaged statement for West Papua's independence ... " - Jorgen Bjerre / journalist, former Chief Editor.
248 pages. 198 color photos. Size 17 x 22 cm. Published 2018 / Remote Frontlines.
Review in Asia Pacific Report by David Robie, professor of journalism and director of AUT University’s Pacific Media Centre: https://asiapacificreport.nz/2018/07/16/contrasting-accounts-of-indonesian-genocide-and-betrayal-in-west-papua/
Review by David Robie / PDF for download and print: https://ojs.aut.ac.nz/pacific-journalism-review/article/view/438/579
Reading from PAPUA BLOOD...
... Most of the freedom fighters divided into small groups who by different routes walked back to their hiding places in the mountains, while Wimmo and the 5 freedom fighters went forth along the banks, and later crossed the river with hollowed-out log canoes. The idea was that we would meet in a village on the opposite side of the river a few kilometers further on. From here we would continue the escape mission out of the area along routes which where only known to the freedom fighters.
The last part of the voyage on the Baliem River with the rubber boat was done quietly and without problems. The freedom fighters who had followed us had already crossed the river, were ready and waiting when we reached the spot where we were to meet. Here we packed the dinghy and continued walking until we reached the village where we were welcomed by a group of men who wanted to know who I was and why I had come to visit this part of the valley. They laid some boards out in a big circle in the grass in front of the men´s house so we could sit on something dry and have a talk.
The reason why we stopped in the village was because the chief thought that after we had crossed the river it would be safe enough for me to spend some time meeting other locals in a village, including women, children and old people at home, which was not the case in the village I had just come from, as they were moved elsewhere while we were there. No one in the village knew either the freedom fighters, Wimmo or Elias, and since the chief did not attend the meeting, as he had gone to another part of the valley where he used to stay more frequently, we had to get by on our own. I was shown a seat in the circle by the village elders who had many questions. They explained how they have had numerous bad experiences with people from outside, not only with Indonesian soldiers and police, but also with white missionaries and others. Therefore, they did not just invite anybody for lunch. After talking for a while a man stood up in the middle of the circle, where he gave a longer speech until he welcomed me by sharing a cooked sweet potato with me. After this everyone welcomed and greeted me, as they broke out in choir "WA WA WA WA" which means thank you and welcome in Dani language. I returned the greeting and everyone came over one by one to shake hands with me.
A man told me that he was ready to go to war and fight to the last drop of blood, and that he was not the only one. His people could not continue to live under the atrocious Indonesian controlled colonial rule. They had suffered enough. Everyone in the village including the oldest people, pregnant women and even small children cried out for freedom, and they were all very dedicated supporters of PAPUA MERDEKA. He asked me what I would say if I saw smoke coming up from West Papua. What would the world do? He said that his people could not wait much longer for the United Nations and the outside world to take action, though he added that he was glad I had come and lent my support for a Free West Papua, he also thought it was a good idea if others did the same. He believed that if a million people from all nations around the world joined together and traveled to West Papua to make a peaceful demonstration all over the country, then West Papua would be free soon. But his people did not have time to wait for this. If nothing happened soon his people would probably be extinct in 20 years. I was told that the Indonesian security forces were particularly active in the area. Several of the men had experienced being tortured, and over the past 50 years, they had lost many family members who had been killed by the Indonesian security forces or vanished without a trace. Some of the older women in the village had almost no fingers left on their hands because the Dani tribe's tradition is that when a woman in the highlands loses a close relative in war, they cut off a finger symbolizing their loss. It is not uncommon to see old women who only have their thumbs left, reflecting their loss and the atrocities committed by the Indonesian security forces. Various human rights organizations have over the years produced several reports documenting the extent and character of the atrocities. One of the latest reports covers the period between 2011-2013 and was published in 2013 by Franciscans International (A voice at the United Nations), entitled "Human rights in West Papua 2013 ". Furthermore, the Asian Human Rights Commission in 2013 released a report entitled "The Neglected Genocide - Human Rights Abuses against Papuans in the Central Highlands, 1977-1978".
The stay in the village lasted a few hours and while it was going on, the remaining freedom fighters were guarding both the river and other locations, so we were ready for a quick departure if required. Before we left the area the villagers wanted to express their support to the struggle for a free West Papua, so once again a group photo was taken, this time with the participation of women, children and elders, who with their clenched fists showed their support for freedom, then wished us good luck on our journey. After this I changed the memory card in my camera with another card and hid it in a safe place.
Around noon we left accompanied by the remaining freedom fighters who knew the route. Without their help we could have never accomplished what we did and several times I was surprised by how well they, in the course of such a short time, were able to organize the escape. Two of the freedom fighters went ahead and explored the terrain, en route they were regularly communicating via mobile phone. In the beginning, we wandered across fields of sweet potatoes and next we went through dense jungle. I prepared myself for a longer walk and took pain relief medication to avoid too many problems with my bad foot. Twice we crossed the Baliem River with log canoes that were laid ready by the riverside. The plan was to traverse Baliem Valley across and reach a village where we could stay overnight safely and then the next day move on to a small road where we would wait for a car to bring us back to Wamena without anyone seeing me.
When we crossed the river it was fast flowing, especially during the second and last crossing. I was told that the Indonesian security forces had several outposts close by with the nearest being less than half an hour's walk away. The two freedom fighters who formed the vanguard had been sitting for some time hidden near the riverbank and watched everything that moved, in order to avoid being seen by others during the river crossing. When we communicated to one another we whispered. Speaking loudly and singing were obviously prohibited as well as the use of mobile phones.
In the afternoon we walked through dense brushwood and into an area with grass several meters tall. Soon after, we reached a small stream with calm flowing water, where a boy and a man stood ready with three dugout canoes. The next couple of hours we paddled and poled ourselves through an area that was so swampy and difficult to access, that it would not be possible to get through without a strong wooden canoe. The trip went through a dense forest of high reeds that rose above us like a roof, so we could hardly see the sky and had to constantly bow down our heads so as not to get reeds in our eyes. Here it was impossible to catch sight of us even from the air and soon we began to feel more at ease and rejoiced that snakes and spiders were probably the only ones that could surprise us here. But we did not see many animals, just a few birds now and then. Soon, the dense morass of tall reeds was replaced by more open water and the canoes drifted into a landscape that varied between floating grass and small islets covered with dense shrubbery. The surrounding natural environment seemed completely untouched and I wished we had more time in its beautiful surroundings. We saw many beautiful birds, including small flocks of white herons that flew up when we got closer ...
Read more exracts below...
Short extract from the book:
"... When I first turned on my lighter inside the men´s house all the men broke out in a shout of surprise and afterwards all had to touch it and discover how it worked. They had never seen a lighter before, they made fire by using a liana which they rubbed against a piece of dry wood ..."
"... The children did not go to school, and did not learn how to count, write or read. Nature was their school, where they learned quite different skills than they could learn in the mission stations school. In nature they were like fish in the water, survival techniques in natures wild conditions was their specialty ..."
"... One afternoon I was hunting with the hunter Wolesi. The jungle was close to a wall, impenetrable to all sides with branches heavy with water ferns, moss and hanging lianas. In front of me walked Wolesi with his bow and arrows and looked up into the treetops as he intently listened to the sounds of the jungle. In the hole through the nasal cartilage, he had a blue bird feather and behind the ear he wore a yellow orchid ..."
"... The missionaries had not had much success with converting Wimmos father, who was still "heathen". Inside the men's house hung all manner of sacred paraphernalia and relics, old stone axes, bows and arrows, jaw bones sourced from slaughtered pigs, sacred stones and smoked items that were carefully packed in leaves, and which he did not want to elaborate on ..."
"... When it rained we were soaking wet with sweat, mud and water, so clothes stuck to the body. From the knees down our pants and boots were soaked with mud, as the paths we went on were a jumble of deep muddy holes and slippery tree roots. Sometimes it was necessary to climb down backwards in order to gain a footing so we didn´t lost balance and slip or tumble ..."
"... The burnt feet were found to be second degree burns, which swelled and became large fluid-filled blisters. With the help of bandages and two porters, sometimes four as solid support, the woman completed the trip. Outside help was excluded, so there was no alternative but to proceed ..."
"... Along with Wimmo and a pair of the tour participants I was in the mission station's small radio room while over VHF radio we heard the poor pilot pray to God while he with severe pain was jammed in the aircraft's small cockpit with broken legs and bent ribs waiting for assistance to come in the form of a helicopter ..."
"... It seemed hard to believe that 28 years earlier there where trees, grass and singing birds, no car exhaust or sound of engines running. I remembered that just a few hours after my first arrival to Wamena many years earlier, I had greeted three traditionally dressed Dani´s who came walking towards me on a dirt path, at exactly the same place where there was now a busy paved road with street lamps, stone-paved sidewalks and Indonesian shops along the roadside ..."
"... Compared to Indonesia's average level of poverty West Papua was in first position with a level of poverty that was over three times higher than the nation's average. In Wamena and vicinity, it was common to see poor Papuans searching for food in garbage piles, as was the case with an old man we met who had lost his entire family because of the genocide ..."
"... Blotting out of the indigenous population and their culture was done in many different ways. Among some children sniffing glue has become part of everyday life. At the bus terminal at the market outside Wamena I met an orphaned boy who had never attended school and earned a living, and the purchase of glue, by opening and closing car doors for passengers ..."
"... Wimmo had many friends and during the time I stayed in Wamena and surroundings, I met new people every day who after just a few minutes of conversation began to talk about freedom. They showed me an area in the corner of a slum in the marketplace, where Indonesian AIDS-infected prostitutes from Java stayed under surveillance of plainclothes police intelligence, while indigenous Papuan men came and went ..."
"... Several of the men had experienced being tortured, and over the past 50 years, they had lost many family members who had been killed by the Indonesian security forces or vanished without a trace. Some of the older women in the village had almost no fingers left on their hands because the Dani tribe's tradition is that when a woman in the highlands loses a close relative in war, they cut off a finger symbolizing their loss ..."
"... Around noon we went away together with the remaining freedom fighters who knew the route. Without their help we could have never accomplished what we did and several times I got very surprised by how well they, in the course of such a short time, were able to organize the escape ..."
"... On the hillside behind the family's house I visited Pilemons grave alongside my adoptive niece Jemina. The view from the grave over the mountains and the jungle was breathtakingly beautiful. It was a nice place to rest. I thought Pilemon may have enjoyed sitting here often when he was alive ..."
"... In the days that followed, I met several people who spoke about the people I had once known and their fate. One afternoon I got a visit from Puwul's mother Tebora who had heard I stayed in Angguruk and therefore had come all the way from the village, which was situated half way up a steep mountainside on the other side of Jaxólé Valley ..."
"... Sulik told me that today, people from the Yali tribe were sad that the missionaries (among many other things) had made them burn their sacred, decorated stones, as the stones were not only a part of the old religion, but also represented a important part of their culture and history ..."
"... Furthermore, he said the missionaries on a couple of occasions had called the Indonesian police and military over the radio to protect the mission with the consequences of several Yali warriors being shot. The Indonesian security forces had fully armed been flown in with the missionary society´s aircraft because the indigenous people had shown hostility and opposition to the mission ..."
"... In a bed that stood in a corner of a large common room was an eight year old girl, hospitalized with meningitis. Her mother and her older sister were looking after her, in another corner of the room was a bed, in which lay a dying man. The patient had been in a coma for several days, but no one knew what was wrong with him ..."
"... Among the indigenous people of West Papua was a very high rate of HIV/AIDS, which was also the case in the area around Angguruk. In 2011, the Indonesian Health Department tested 200 random people in Angguruk for HIV/AIDS, and 30 of them were positive ..."
"... The next morning there was a major presence of police and military in the streets. I saw several trucks fully loaded with traditionally dressed women and children, as well as hundreds of warriors armed with spears, bows and arrows, driving through the city ..."
"... The place really should have been swarming with foreign journalists and TV crews, since it was an historic event which very much deserved to be documented for posterity. But in West Papua, there is no access for foreign journalists and TV crews, so I felt very alone on the job ..."
"... All around along the walls of the houses were security forces ready for action. Tucked behind every doorway sat groups of heavily armed soldiers and police. The present military superiority was so massive that cold shivers ran down my spine ..."
"... A few days later my uncle died in Wamena due to an inexplicable illness that allegedly began with severe pain in the stomach. During the weeks following, various Papuans with suspected association with the freedom movement were arrested. Thomas Dandois and Valentine Bourrat´s unedited footage was confiscated by the police and subsequently they were threatened with 20 years in prison for subversion ..."
"... As a child Benny Wenda witnessed his village in the western part of Baliem Valley being bombed by the Indonesian occupying force, many of his family were killed ..."
"...When I met Benny Wenda in Oxford he had just returned from a journey in the Pacific, where he had important meetings with leaders from different nations ..."
"... Benny Wenda was very positive about the growing support from Pacific Island countries and he strongly believed that West Papua would, sooner or later, achieve independence ..."
"... Foreign journalists still had no access to West Papua. Murder, torture, racism, corruption and political prisoners were still part of everyday life. In 2016 over 5,000 Papuans were arrested only for participating in peaceful demonstrations for freedom that they have never experienced during the Indonesian rule ..."
"... In 2018, the Indonesian regime continues the brutal crackdown on the native population of West Papua ... "
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A Photographer´s Eyewitness Account of West Papua Over 30 years
by Peter Bang
Size 17 x 22 cm. 248 pages. 200 color photos.
Published 2018 / Remote Frontlines
Facebook: PAPUA BLOOD / https://www.facebook.com/papuablood/
Facebook: REMOTE FRONTLINES / https://www.facebook.com/Remote-Frontlines-777591545724165/
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