Indonesien-Information Nr. 1, 1996 (West-Papua/Irian Jaya)
Interview with Ottis Simopiaref, General Co-ordinator OPM (West Papua Peoples Front)
What did you think about the exhibition?
It was the first time in my life to see such a huge exhibition about Asmat art. But I have mixed feelings. It is really very nice to see these things but I would really like to see them in Asmat. When I came in and I saw the human statues and the animal statues in front of me I wasvery disappointed, that was my first impression. I feel something like broken heart, some minutes later I went back to stand in front of the statues and prayed to the statues and I felt okay, I felt something very deep in my soul, the freedom, the peace and the silence. I am against taking away the human and animal statues from the people. These things have spiritual values for the people there. It was very nice to see but it makes me a little bit disappointed because I saw a lot of big human carvings and animals and these things are symbols of there incarnation of the ancestors and now we have them here in Europe and it means that the Asmat people have lost something. May be they don't know it, may be they do it just because of money, or may be they want to give something to protect other people. So I have mixed feelings.
And what about what they call the modern carvings, do you feel the same about them?
I don't really understand why they call them modern. These things are made of wood in a very traditional way. They don't know what modern art looks like. In the past the missonaries, twenty or thirty years ago the missionaries urged the people to burn all these things just because the missionaries said this is against the bible, this is against christianity. Then later the anthropoligists they were against the missionaries they said these things are very important for the culture so we must keep them. But now the anthropologists are working for the museums and they handle these things for economic purposes. Somebody told me that one of Suharos daughter has arranged big exhibitions showing Asamt carvings. What is her motivation? It is all about economic interest, not about the culture of West-Papuan people. I am not sure if the Indonesian government, the president or his family are very interested in the West-Papuan people, their culture, their traditions, they do these thing only to show that they want to do something for the people but this it is not the real purpose, they do this just for economic purposes, for money.
What do you think about their statement made in the catalogue saying that what they call modern sculptures really show that the Asmat have made a successful transition from a traditional society to modern society?
May be they use this term, they call it modern sculptures just so they can bring them to the western countries. But what I see is there is no change in making these carvings. I don't see any influence of modern art in making these things. I don't see a difference between the traditional and the so called modern pieces. The only difference I see is that they are being sold. In the past we did not use them for economic purposes. We just give these things to somebody else to protect this person or his familiy against illness or against wild souls. Another statement says that the so-called modern pieces are much more elaborate and sophisticated than the traditional pieces. I am not sure. Because in Indonesia if you call somebody primitive - primitive for us has no negative meaning - it means you are backward. For us it does not mean backward. By calling them modern they want to make them better than the old ones. If they would call them primitive, it would mean backward, which is the same as saying of low qualitiy. They say they are differnent than in the past. I don't see a difference in quality between the so-called traditional and modern ones. Do you think their art of carving is a chance for the Asmat to cope with the problems they are facing? Of course they need money. But to give money and take these things away from them doesn't help them. There are other ways to help them with money. I think it would be better to give people in the western countries written information instead of taking these sculptures away. I would agree on an exhibition of other objects but these carvings are symbols of the reincarnation of our ancestors. I would only agree to show photographs of these things.
What kind of information was missing?
Information about the political system under which the people live.<
|Zurück zur Hauptseite||Watch Indonesia! e.V.||Back to Mainpage|