West Papuan Youth Interview Elders to Reclaim their Story


Summary: A group of West Papuan young people have been interviewing their Elders in a project called Kal angam-kal: Stories from West Papua. These interviews document the journey and experiences of the West Papuan community, shedding light on their struggle and the impact it has had on their lives. The project aims to create space for intergenerational conversations and empower the younger generation to share their culture and heritage.

The Journey of West Papuan Asylum Seekers

In 2006, 43 West Papuan people arrived in Australia by boat seeking asylum. After being granted temporary protection visas, most of them settled in Melbourne. This marked the beginning of their journey and the challenges they faced as refugees.

The Creation of the Lombok Treaty

As a response to the arrival of the 43 West Papuan asylum seekers, the Lombok Treaty was established in 2006. This treaty provided Indonesia with access to intelligence on West Papua from Australia, limiting Australia’s ability to discuss Indonesia’s internal affairs, including the situation in West Papua.

Initiating Kal angam-kal: Stories from West Papua

Cyndi Makabory and Yasbelle Kerkow, both artists with West Papuan heritage, started the project Kal angam-kal: Stories from West Papua in December 2021. The project aims to reclaim the West Papuan narrative by interviewing West Papuan Elders and documenting their stories. The interviews include conversations with the parents of the original 43 West Papuan asylum seekers.

Empowering the Younger Generation

Through workshops and mentorships, the project creators provided young West Papuans with the necessary tools and skills to conduct interviews with their Elders. This process not only allowed for intergenerational conversations but also empowered the younger generation to share their culture and heritage.

Representation and Self-Determination

The project is significant for the West Papuan community as it allows them to represent themselves on their own terms. Often, their stories are framed by Western directors, but this exhibition is led by Pasifika creatives who prioritize community-first practices and authentic representation.

The Exhibition and its Impact

The exhibition, titled Kal angam-kal, is divided into three parts: ‘Roots,’ ‘Currents,’ and ‘Ripples.’ It showcases personal archives, news footage, and a soundscape featuring West Papuan musical groups. The project aims to raise awareness about the West Papuan cause and hopes to spark conversations within the wider Australian community.

Tags: West Papua, Intergenerational Conversations, Cultural Heritage, Empowerment, Representation