Papua New Guinea tribe's first meeting with the White Man

14 minutes of incredible footage, made in 1976, showing how we got their trust.

We showed them our stuff!

And we did it, amazingly enough, while framing both tribe and white man in the all-seeing eye of a movie camera, perhaps the most technologically sophisticated of all our stuff back then.

The look in the first tribal man’s eye, gazing right into the camera’s lens . . . I am struck by his high alert intelligence. “WHAT . . . IS . . . THIS?! Is it safe? Are we safe?” Always protective, of the others. Is he the leader, chief?

First, we show them a box of matches, and we light a match. Then, a knife. We show the sharp edge, then use to cut wood. Then, a mirror! “Ooooo, quick, cover it with a leaf!” A camera, a tape recorder . . . Oh, and in between the match and the knife, touch. Touch of hand to hand, hand to arm, their hands moving over our arms, our heads, hair. Our hands moving over theirs. Mimicking each other’s touch, relaxing.

More and more movement, more and more at ease.

Gradually, their looks of fear and incredulity turn to curiosity, fascination. We offer a big bowl of white food (rice?, pudding?) They try it, at first spit it out, then more and more, eating with their fingers, knocking the side of their heads each time they put some in their mouths (does this gesture mean “YES! I like it!”?)

Finally, one of the tribal women breaks out into a grin. Men, women, and children, all end up moving up and down to a rhythmic beat.

My question: and what of that Papua New Guinea tribe now? Do they still exist in the wild, in their own right, or has their culture been obliterated by Empire in its ravenous exploitation of natural resources.

Could we all go back to sharing simple stuff? Back before that, to touch?

Could we remember to touch each other, not in predation, but in wonder? How we all feel warm, to the touch?

World round, beneath the mind, beneath conditioning, beneath who we “think” we are, spontaneous, genuine smiles communicate joy, connection, communion.

 

 

 

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