It was raining and the traffic was bad. It was far, and people were already busy with their own agendas. It was noisy, dirty and cops were everywhere. But on December 10, 2011, Human Rights Day, folks in Jakarta, Jayapura and Arso in West Papua), joined Papuan video activists to watch and discuss Papuan Voices videos.
Papuan Voices is a collaborative project of EngageMedia and Catholic Church groups JPIC and SKP KC. It is a combination of empowerment and production. Since early 2011, together with video activists in Jayapura and Merauke, the project has produced over 20 short videos, from the culture of eating ‘pinang’ (Areca nut), doing the traditional Bilogai handshake, to the plight of the Malind tribesmen to survive in ‘Ironic Survival’.
On Human Rights Day 2011, Papuan Voices showcased five videos in Jakarta, Arso and Jayapura. There were two videos from the border village of Wambes, Arso (Jayapura) – What Mama Kasmira Wants and The Hope of the Cendrawasih Children, one video from the Jayapura market – Awin Meke (My Mother), and two videos from Merauke – the culture struggle in Coconut Trees that Bear Jerry Cans, and an estranged woman’s love in a border village in Surat Cinta Kepada Sang Prada (Love Letter to the Soldier).
In Jakarta, the screening was held in Neo Journalism Club, Galeri Foto Jurnalistik Antara. About 100 people packed the little cafe.
Aside from the main screening, the event was also a showcase of Papuan culture, where Gorby the Rastaman combined reggae and Papuan music, and dance/theatre group the Black Wissel played a drama about how Papuans struggle with their identities.
In Arso, SKP KC held a screening and discussion in a church filled with over 50 villagers, including the people featured in the videos. They laughed when they saw themselves, and angered when seeing the injustice. In Jayapura, video activists organised a screening in the indigenous market in the City of Jayapura. It was an emotional roller-coaster ride as the market traders, mostly women, watched in anger of their plight for justice in their video Awin Meke, and saddened to see the fate of Maria Goreti in Surat Cinta Kepada Sang Prada.
There are more videos to be made through the Papuan Voices project, and more screenings to be organised. But as the year closed, violence and injustice did not stop in Papua. As one of the Papua Voices video activist FX Making said: “The problem in Papua is more than just about the Morning Star flag. People in Indonesia and the international community must know this. This is why I choose video activism in this struggle.”