Friday, July 18, 2008

Seminar Series: The Waigani Seminar (13-15 August 2008, UPNG)

The Waigani Seminar which ran from 1967-1997 - is to return in a new series in 2008.

Waigani Seminar 2008 - AUGUST 13th-15th 2008 - UPNG
Download a poster here
  • Theme: Living History & Evolving Democracy in Papua New Guinea
  • Complementary Themes:
    • The Constitution and the Law, Land Tenure and Land Values
    • Dynamic interaction, bureaucratic inertia, reactive and proactive pathways within the three tiers of government
    • Climate Change, global warming and environmental impact upon sovereign waters and lands
    • Globalisation and Telecommunication
    • The e-Economy: Kina currency; HIV-AIDS health, education and stigmatisation; other human; natural and material resources within the sovereign jurisdiction
  • Contact: Ms. Dimas Belik, Seminar Secretariat, Waigani Campus (next to MLT)
    Tel: (675) 326 7694/174 | Fax: (675) 326 7107 &nbs;| Email:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Vanuatu: Chief Roi Mata's Domain Listed as World Heritage Site

On July 8th, Chief Roi Mata's Domain in Vanuatu was inscribed along with twenty seven other site on the UNESCO's World Heritage List. Two of the other sites were also in Melanesia: Kuk, a 116 hecters of swamp in PNG's southern highlands; and Lagoons of New Caledonia). Chief Roi Mata's Domain is the first site inscribed in Vanuatu and includes the island Artok (where Chief Roi Mata and more than 50 of his community are buried), Mangaas on Efate Island (his site of residence) and the chamber care of Fels on Lelepa Island (where Chief Roi Mata died). It joins the listing of the 'Vanuatu Sand Drawing' which had the distinction of being proclaimed a 'Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity' by UNESCO in 2003. The following is posted on the UNESCO site about the Chief Roi Mata listing:
It consists of three early 17th century AD sites on the islands of Efate, Lelepa and Artok associated with the life and death of the last paramount chief, or Roi Mata, of what is now Central Vanuatu. The property includes Roi Mata’s residence, the site of his death and Roi Mata’s mass burial site. It is closely associated with the oral traditions surrounding the chief and the moral values he espoused. The site reflects the convergence between oral tradition and archaeology and bears witness to the persistence of Roi Mata’s social reforms and conflict resolution, still relevant to the people of the region.
The Vanuatu Cultural Centre (VCC) site has a report prepared by Dr. Meredith Wilson and Dr. Chris Ballard at the Australian National University, which was created in collaboration with communities from Lelepa Island and Mangaliliu Village on Efate Island. They began this report in 2004, and it provides a summary of the nomination process. The report can be viewed as an html document here or downloaded from the VCC site here.

On the ANU website the following press release was posted on the 14th of July:

Forbidden island is first world heritage site in Pacific

The mass grave of a chief on a forbidden island in Vanuatu has been chosen as one of the first cultural sites in the Pacific added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, thanks in part to the efforts of ANU researchers.

The small offshore island of Artok, where Chief Roi Mata was buried together with more than 50 members of his community, has been protected by traditional prohibitions for four centuries. Also included in the World Heritage property of Chief Roi Mata’s Domain are the sites of Roi Mata’s residence, at Mangaas on Efate Island, and of his death in the large chamber cave of Fels, on Lelepa Island.

Chief Roi Mata’s Domain is the first site in Vanuatu to be granted World Heritage status, and shares the honour of being the first cultural site to be listed from an independent Pacific country with the Kuk Early Agricultural Site in Papua New Guinea.

ANU researchers played a leading role in the successful nomination of Chief Roi Mata’s Domain. In 2004, Dr Meredith Wilson and Dr Chris Ballard of the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies (RSPAS) at ANU were invited by Ralph Regenvanu, Director of Vanuatu’s National Museum and Cultural Centre, to work on the nomination together with the museum and the Lelepa community.

“Chief Roi Mata’s Domain is a unique cultural landscape,” explained Dr Wilson, who led the team that put the site forward for World Heritage protection. “It’s not just that the mass voluntary live burial is exceptional relative to the small size of the local population, but also that the descendant communities have observed the prohibition on the island for four centuries.”

Dr Ballard, the project researcher, said: “The oral traditions of Roi Mata and his legacy of peace-making that are still being told by the Lelepa community actually guided French archaeologist José Garanger to the grave in the 1960s, and accurately predicted much of the detail uncovered by his excavation.”

The nomination process was supported by the Division of Pacific and Asian History, RSPAS, and assisted by the Australian Government’s Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.

ANU researchers also played a central role in the successful World Heritage inscription of the other Pacific cultural site, the Kuk Early Agricultural Site in PNG. Archaeologist Professor Jack Golson from RSPAS and his former ANU students, Dr Jon Muke and Dr Tim Denham, have spent many years working on the history of Kuk, the site of some of the earliest agriculture in the world. A buried network of drains in the Kuk swamp has revealed an almost unbroken record of agricultural practice stretching back at least 7,000 years.

View of the off-shore island of Artok, where Chief Roi Mata was buried, and which has been protected by traditional prohibitions (from Vanuatu Cultural Centre website).

Monday, July 7, 2008

Conference: European Society for Oceanists (ESFO) in Verona (10-12 July 2008)

From the 10th to the 12th of July the European Society for Oceanists (ESFO) will be meeting in Verona. For those of you not going to Verona information on the meeting can be found here, and a PDF of the papers to be given looked at here.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Book Contract Competition - California Series in Public Anthropology

The University of California Press and the Center for Public Anthropology
are sponsoring competitions to award two book contracts this fall in
the press' public anthropology series. Please click here for a PDF for details.

Robert Borofesky has clarified that the competition is now divided into
two categories:
  1. individuals with doctorates and
  2. graduate students who have not yet received their doctorates
The deadline for the competition is October 1, 2008.

More information about the series and competition can be found on the Public
Anthropology website ( by clicking here.

As noted on the website:

Individuals interested in submitting manuscripts to the Series should,
as a first step, submit a 3-4,000 word overview of their manuscript –
detailing the problems addressed, the manner in which they are addressed
through the manuscript, and the style of writing used. (Obviously, a clear
indication of the writing style will be the overview itself.) They should
also include a chapter by chapter outline of the manuscript with three
to five sentence descriptions of each chapter’s contents. These two
statements should be emailed, as attachments, to with a brief cover letter.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

New Films about PNG

Two recent films about PNG that I saw screened back in February at the Pacific Film and History Workshop hosted by the ANU and run by Chris Ballard and Vicki Luker are worth highlighting. The first is Papa Bilong Chimbu (2007) and the second is Crater Mountain Story (2006). Both deal with different issues relevant to Melanesian communities and besides being interesting in their own right are useful for teaching.

Papa Bilong Chimbu is directed and produced by Verena Thomas and chronicles the life of Thomas' great-uncle Father John Nilles (1905-1993), who from 1937 worked for 54 years as a Catholic missionary in the Chimbu district. Reminiscent of Connolly and Anderson's film First Contact (1983), the film weaves together Thomas' relationship with Niles, her own journey to Chimbu to interview those who knew and worked with her great-uncle, with historical photographs taken by Nilles and a chronicle of Nilles engagement with the Chimbu. The result is a fascinating film about Nilles entanglement with the Chimbu, the history of transformation in the region and the filmmaker's own encompassment by these relationships. The film is distributed by Ronin Films and clips can be seen on the website:

Crater Mountain Story is directed by Martin Maden for the Research and Conservation Foundation of Papua New Guinea (RFC) and was created with members of Maimafu village. The film explores people's reactions to a proposed mining project and mixes interviews with villagers with skits and performances put on by villagers for the film. The film provides wonderful insight into local views about conservation, what development entails and what it is that people desire. Clips of the film are available on Maden's website: Maimafu Flue Finale, Maimafu Flute Finale 2 and Siri Gets Ready. The film is a good companion to Paige West's recent book Conservation Is Our Government Now: The Politics of Ecology in Papua New Guinea (2006) about the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

New Publications Feature

In an attempt to help highlight new published works - monographs and books - on Melanesian topics, I have added a new link on the side of the book where I will periodically add titles and links for readers.

For example ANU E-Press (a favorite of mine) has recently come out with some new titles that will be of interest to people:
Please let us know if you have a new book coming out that you would like listed.