Friday, June 24, 2011

They Didn't Know The White Man Was Real, Then They Thought He Was Covered In Ash

This video has been called "the most beautiful video on the internet". It surely, at the very least, is exactly that. And more.

If the music annoys you, turn it off, it's even more extraordinary in silence :

They are the Toulambi. From the film-maker Jean Pierre Dutilleux's site :

For centuries the hill tribes of the Owen Ranmge in Papua, New Guinea have lived in isolation to avoid war. In a landscape of dense tropical rainforests each tribe stays within a well established territory. This explains why some of them have survived into the new millennium without any contact with the outside world.

They are hunters and gatherers. The entire tribe moves in uncanny silence for fear of alerting the game. They know the migration trails of animals and the best time of year to find fish, the growing cycles of the palms, bamboo, wild fruits and the roots they rely on. Always on the move. The rhythm of their lives is that of the jungle. It gives them no time to create complex art, to develop science or conceive profound metaphysical philosophies.

The Toulambi are among the very last witnesses of our distant past. When the last tribe is contacted and moved from the Stone Age into the modern world, from being free and masters of their own destiny to being poor and at the lowest level of our western society, it is a part of ourselves that will vanish forever.

When I worked at the Australians At War Film Archive, I heard the stories of some young Australians who volunteered for World War 2 and found themselves marching through the mountain jungles of New Guinea, only a few weeks after they were working on a building site or in an office in Sydney or Melbourne, who had similar encounters with tribes who had never seen white men before. Amongst all the horrors and madness of their jungle fighting days in New Guinea, it was meetings like this, sometimes only an exchange of stares from a distance, that remained amongst the most vivid in some veterans memories well into old age, and could still light their faces with wonder thinking back.

Many have fought in wars, but how many have had such an experience? The rarest few.

Here's what David Attenborough had to say after his own meeting with a New Guinea tribe who only knew of white men from the legends of other tribes :
"... nobody knows what are in these valleys; it may be that there's gold here. It may be - like a valley less than a hundred miles away - it is rich with copper. If it is, and if the West - European Man - moves in here with all his technology the fate of these people is likely to be very unhappy.

"All we know in the past of people - like this - who come face-to-face with Western technology leads us to suppose that it's very difficult for them to survive that clash.

"And so the only chance of bringing these people to terms with the world outside is a gradual process over years - over tens of years - in which they get to know what happens in the outside world, gradually they get to believe that people like ourselves are their friends and not their enemies. Gradually they have enough confidence in us to allow us to give them medical help, and educational help."

Attenborough quotes from the documentary A Blank On The Map

Via Reddit