00:30 Papua over 1,400 islands, large and small, scattered between the Equator and north Australia. Many of these islands are tiny, uninhabited coral atolls. As a result of the last glaciation, many communities were cut off.
The different ethnic groups that live on the islands of Papua were greatly feared by the sailors who dared to navigate the waters of these 'accursed' islands. Head-hunters and cannibals, these fierce warriors of the sea remained isolated until well into the twentieth century. Their bloodthirsty fame meant that, for a long time, their territory remained unexplored by Europeans.
07:10 Yams are the most important crop in the Trobriand islands. In fact, they are a symbol of wealth, both personal and of the clan. Every man must build a yam house for each one of his wives.
On the island of Kiriwina we attend a purifying ceremony. The participants, under the protection of the medicine man, invoke their ancestors to fight and drive out the evil spirits which have caused a bad harvest.
17:36 The canoe builders are very important in these communities. They have the same social status as the carvers of yam houses. A man may not have a house, but if he does not have a boat he virtually does not exist for the community.
When they die, their canoes are abandoned far from the shore, so the currents will carry them out to sea, to the mermaids who will accompany their spirit on its final voyage to the realm of the gods. They believe their boats bear the traces of all the acts and deeds of this life. They are the summary of everything they have been and everything they have done.
19:53 In the Trobriand islands, hundreds of defiant warriors await the arrival of their enemies. They have emerged from the forest at the first light of day, after performing the ceremony to invoke the god of war.
Before the game begins, the rival teams sing old songs, which speak of their warrior exploits. It is a way to incite and impress the rival team. Then, they exchange betel nuts, as a symbol of fraternity. These nuts, also called baual, are slightly narcotic.
24:13 On the islands of Papua there are many volcanoes, a lot of them active, like Turvurvur, which in 1994 destroyed the city of Rabaul, the capital of the island of New Britain. Any plans to rebuild the city and the port seem to have abandoned forever. The people moved to nearby Kokopo, which is now the administrative capital.
Dances are an essential part of the spirituality of these people.
Through dance, they invoke the spirits, to ask them for protection and favour.
30:57 Though the dances contain elements of magic, not all are performed for religious reasons. Among the inhabitants of the Trobriand islands, there are a number of dances simply for pleasure, performed at special celebrations, or as a kind of courtship ritual. The nearly naked girls perform sexy dances.
In this way, the men of their own clan will turn their attention to other girls who they will be able to marry for these people are exogamous.The courtships end with the arrival of the rains.
36:39 Something they greatly value, as well as the betel, is tobacco. This is prepared in a very rudimentary way. The leaves, dried in caves, are smoked in pipes, or wrapped to make cigarettes. Tobacco is also used in rituals, it is a liturgical element. Its smell attracts the spirits.
In Rabaul, they still use the sell mony or traditional currency, which they call tambu. They are small shells threaded together to make necklaces of a particular value. These shells are very difficult to find.
39:34 These islands are subject to a kind of traditional, magical law, which regulates relations of exchange and is known by the name Kula Ring. Objects made from Spondylus shells, called Soulava, are passed round clockwise, and the Muali, which are made from white, conical shells, are passed round anti-clockwise.
45:49 The Banin, from northern New Britain, put the spirits of the forest to the test of fire. The initiated have spent almost the entire day hidden in the forest, invoking the supernatural beings that live in the depths of the jungle. A circular piece of wood, placed in the navel, ensures that the spirit that possesses the initiate cannot escape. They believe that these creatures from the other world enter and leave though the navel. Their customs and habits are rapidly being wiped out by the Christian sects, and possibly in just a few years time it will be difficult to witness this fire dance.