Savage Memory Film Project

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Lame in London

Following our month-long stay in the Trobs, we had a stop-over in Singapore, dubbed the cleanest city in the world. This just happened to be the place where Zach developed a severe infection in his foot that, two days later, put him overnight in an emergency room in London.

London. That was the start to our British experience. Zach and an IV. Thank god for free health care.

Most of our time in London was spent with Helena Wayne (Malinowski's youngest daughter) and Michael Young (Malinowski's biographer) who are currently collaborating to finish the second volume of Malinowski's biography.

Helena was a fascinating subject and an expert storyteller. She was Malinowski's favorite daughter and this has certainly influenced her relationship with his legacy. The other two daughters didn't have it quite as good. As a result, she's spent the past 40 years devoted to compiling his papers and researching his legacy, even though some of the things she found along the way were not what she hoped...including countless affairs with women. Her only consolation being that she doesn't have any half-sisters or brothers in the Trobriand Islands (ha!). While it seemed quite clear to us that Malinowski was self-centered, career-driven and shirked his fatherly responsibilities, Helena has decided to remember her father and his legacy in a postive light. This was definitely a lesson to us in forgiveness.

Michael has spent the past 7 years devoted to the ins and outs of Malinowski's tempestous life. We're starting to get fed up with the guy and it's only been a few months. But Michael's kept a cool distance and an extremely even-handed approach. He guided us through Malinowski's extensive collection of archives at the LSE, which included the original versions of the infamous personal field diaries which scandalized his name when his second wife published them in the 1960's. The diaries are filled with sexual longing for the young Trobriand girls, oedipal echoes, self-castagation and a dream about having sex with his doppleganger. Talk about egomaniacal. However, they were most shocking because of the use of the word 'nigger'.

Michael and Helena were both extremely generous with their time and we got HOURS of footage. Unfortuntately, towards the end, they became suspicious of our line of questioning which did at times veer towards the negative. How could they suspect this??? No - everyone thus far has lauded Malinowski as their long-lost relative, their mentor, their inspiration for living - we need some of the negative and let's face it, there's plenty of it to be had.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Where oh where?

We miss hearing all of your comments! More to come on our adventures in London and our current Polish experience!

Friday, April 08, 2005

Church choir, Tukwaukwa, Kiriwina. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Malinowski and God??

Today we met with the reverand Ignatius Katubai. He is the Convenor for the entire United church community throughout all the Trobriand islands as well as some of the other outlying islands. His circuit is in the village of Tukwaukwa. We thought it would be good to get an opinion from him on Malinowski but upon arriving we found out that more than just having an opinion, he had written an undergraduate thesis in Theology and Anthropology, using Malinowski as his main source!

His thesis was entitled Tuma: the Trobriand Heaven. Now Tuma, as Malinowski recorded, is the island to the northwest of Kiriwina where the Baloma (spirit) goes after it's human counterpart has died. There the Baloma lives the regular life of a trobriander doing all the daily activities they might do in life and eventually dies after which he is reborn in the world of the living by being inserted in a woman's belly by another ancestor(the stories differ according to M's different informants). According to M's informants the Baloma has a body and looks pretty much like a regular person. But Ignatius' idea of Tuma as the Trobriand christian heaven is quite a spin on Mal's work. How would he feel about a Trobriand christian using his anthropology to combine christianity and traditional culture. As we know, Malinowski was a lifetime agnostic and thought the missionaries were a threat and a menace to tradition and culture on the islands. But Ignatius argues that there is no conflict. Tuma is simply the Trobriand version of heaven.

a few days later we spoke with Numakala, the heir apparent to the current paramount chief. He is a hard core christian and his opinion on Tuma was quite different and very fervent: "My bible says that when you die, the soul leaves the body, dust to dust. . . but in Tuma the body is still there, Tuma is full of demons! . . . You'll go there and your dead grandmother will come up to you and speak with you just like she was alive. . . at night you'll hear the sound of the conch shell and the beating of the drum. . . they are demons, trapped." Numakala had apparently spent some time on Tuma and had some seriously freaky experiences. But we wondered why he would call his own grandmother a demon?

But even Numakala admitted to being visited by ancestors in dreams and gaining insight from them as to the mystical teachings of the island. Almost everyone we spoke with seemed to evoke their ancestors in some way. The spells for garden magic actually involve calling on the ancestors by name, a long lineage of teachers and magicians passing down the spell over time. I couldn't help but think about of what's been passed down by Malinowski to our generation. As my uncle Sebastian puts it, "He's a dark cloud that's been hanging over the family evr since i can remember!"

We considered a trip to Tuma but then decided against it after hearing the story of a National Geographic reporter who had gone there and then fainted due to a strange force that eminated from a vortex he was trying to take a picture of?? hmmmm. . .

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Children learning Traditional Dance, Yulumgwa Posted by Hello

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