This is a book project. Our aim is to publish a big photographic and general readership book about a series of ancient cave paintings in Papua New Guinea, and the remote hunter-gatherers who guard them. The authors are a small team of Papua New Guinean researchers, and one American anthropologist, who have been recording these caves and their histories for about 5 years now. The book, to be called 'Cave Arts of the Karawari', will have photos and stories from roughly 100 of the 300+ caves and rock ledges along the north face of the central highlands in PNG owned by the Penali, the Ewa and the Meakambut people. Along this vast escarpment and huge swath of primary rainforest, are hundreds of rock shelters covered with hand stencils and clay paintings of various ages---some may be a few years old, while others, like similar rock stencils in Western Australia and Borneo, may be up to 20,000 years old. The team of university graduates and local villagers is part of the larger consulting company known as Nancy Sullivan & Associates, and has been assisted in its recording and basic development objectives by donor agencies and grants, as well as outside archaeologists, field biologists and museum specialists. We are also affiliated with the National Museum here in Papua New Guinea. There are now two permanent base camps, among the Penali and the Ewa peoples at the headwaters of the Arafundi and the Karawari Rivers. But all 3 groups of people have been neglected by government administrations for decades, and are desperate for schools, aid posts and even basic electricity, so we have been serving some of these needs as we work. So far we have been able to bring 5 solar light kits to these villages, send the children of 5 villages to local primary schools, and enroll 5 young men in teacher training courses in the provincial capital. This year we also brought a doctor who conducted clinics in 5 villages. We want to enable these communities to make their own choice about their land and their future, and not have to capitulate, as so many remote villagers do, to logging or mining interests just to get a school built or see a nurse. This book project is important as a collaborative effort between villagers and concerned Papua New Guinean scientists and researchers, and the kind of output that will mean many things to everyone involved. First and foremost, however, it will become part of the legitimizing process for these people who believe that, because they are so remote, they are also easily overpowered by outsiders. Various legal and illegal timber and mining concessions ve been making their way through their forest and could easily displace them and destroy these cave images for posterity. The Meakambut community of barely 50 people, for example, is one of the last bands of hunter-gatherers in New Guinea, and have been the most ardent participants in the project. Please watch a short amateurish video we’ve made about them.
- (30 days)