Report from Aryo Danusiri, Visual Cultural Studies, University of Tromsø
Financial support to the project “NEGOTIATING INDIGENEITY: Space, Identity and Social Mobility of Marind People (West Papua, Indonesia) in The Post-Suharto Era.”
The fall of Suharto in 1998 and the ideas of so called “reformation era” have created a new political landscape for many local communities in Indonesia. The West Papuan people gained this new space by expressing their Indigeneity more openly in the form of demands for independence, which actually has been a sporadic struggle since the 60’s.
Since then, West Papua became one of the most turbulent areas in the eastern part of Indonesia. After long negotiation, Jakarta finally answered to this demand for self-determination by granting Special Autonomy Policy in 2001. After two years, the implementation of this promising initiative has not gone far beyond the state of political intentions. Furthermore, recent administrative and political developments of the Province (so called “Papuanization”) have raised doubts among the community leaders and pro-democratic Papuan politicians, whether the Central Government has a serious political will to implement Special Autonomy policy. Is this policy an opportunity or an illusion?
Instead of investigating this question at the level of government and new Papuan political elite, I decided to focus on the process of social mobilization at the community level. Using digital video camera and participant-observation cinematic style, which strongly suggest following the process of a social agent, I ended up with Lukas Gebze, a young person from the Marind Ethnic group who is ambitious in building his independent small-scale enterprise. He lives in Payum, a coastal village at the outskirts of Merauke City, Southern West Papua. For the most part, the Coastal-Marind People live as fishermen and depend on the patron-client relationship with Makkasar/Daeng People (the settlers of the 80’s). Since April 2004, Lukas and other students in Payum, have received fishing equipment from HAPIN, an NGO from the Netherlands, which is, concerned with the problems the Papuan face today. The idea behind this project is to make the students independent fishermen able to earn money for school. I studied the strategy of Lukas in using all his social and cultural relationships to achieve his success. Specifically, I am interested to focus on how indigeneity expresses and works in this process.
Through this thesis, I would like to argue, first that the Papuan believe and practice their indigeneity as a new culturally relevant resource in their efforts for social mobilization, and thereby entering into new social spaces. Secondly, on the level of language, there are several terminologies in expressing indigeneity, which depend on the social interaction context. This linguistic hierarchy is related to contemporary discussion about the ethnic diversity among the Papuan people and the process of creating West Papuan Nationalism. Thirdly, the result of ethnographic film which use participant-observation style is a kind of poetic representation of the everyday lives – an ambiguous advocacy which represents a different image of West Papuan, compare to that often seen in Indonesia mainstream media: either demonization in conflict area or exotification as noble savage. This style unfolds the opportunity for the visual anthropologist to discover “the extraordinary of the ordinary person”.