A Road to Nowhere
The Trans Irian Road (Trans-Papua Highway) intends to open up the whole jungle-covered interior of Papua, Indonesia. In 1992 we followed the rough course of the road as plotted out on some maps, to see the present and the possible future of the Papuans.
The book consists of three parts. The first part deals with the relatively unchanged traditional food system that is based upon the cultivation of the sweet potatoe in the Central Highlands. The second part shows the surroundings of Waris close to the PNG border. The staple diet of these lowland tribes is primarily based upon the wild sago in the jungle, on hunting and food gathering.
The last part shows the situation between the recently finished part of the Trans Irian Road and the border of PNG, where the Workwane tribe lives around the town of Arso. The Workwane suddenly found themselves surrounded by a huge palm oil plantation. For their livelihood they have become solely dependent on selling palm nuts to a factory, to obtain money for food.
Papua is a province of the Indonesian archipelago, that stretches almost 6000 kilometres from Sabang in the north of Sumatra to Merauke in the south of Papua, close to the border of Papua New Guinea. Until 1962 Papua was a colony of The Netherlands, until that time named Dutch New Guinea. The Indonesians changed its name into Irian Jaya, and in the year 2000 rebaptised it into it’s current name: ‘Papua’. Papua is the western part of the second largest island in the world. Together with its independent neighbour Papua New Guina it almost forms an entire and unique continent: New Guinea.
This photo-documentary explores some recent changes in Papua while it was still named Irian Jaya. During our stay, in the year 1991, we documented some recent influences that modern development schemes meant for the traditional way of life of the Papuan tribes. We compared the more or less untouched food system of Central Highland tribes, such as the Dani and the Jali, with the changed food security of the Workwane tribe, a northern lowland tribe living close to the border of Papua new Guinea.
In 1991 these different locations shared a relation to a road- in-construction: The Trans Irian Road (Trans-Papua Highway). On some maps the future track of this road was plotted out to connect the three areas.
While the Central Highlands still remained unconnected in 1991, still in: ’the Middle of Nowhere’ , the rainforest of the Workwane tribe around Arso changed drastically after the arrival of that road into a huge palm oil plantation. By means of the Trans Irian Road, the Workwane are now said to be connected to the 21 th century,.
At that time the little village of Waris was still just outside the far end of the plantation, a few miles from the point where the troublesome construction of the Trans Irian Road came to a stand still…