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It's actually difficult to tell what is art. No one can deny that some sports are also art. Or people will argue some plays are art works of sports.

In some places headhunting definitively faded out long ago, in other parts of the world it was a practice that lingered as common place until the mid-20th century at least. I think it is fascinating how utterly repugnant such practices are to some societies, while conversely in others, they were not only condoned and encouraged but viewed as an absolutely essential component of community well being.

Suffice to say that headhunting was a robust tradition here. In 2001, on the centenary of Rev. Chalmers' demise, the BBC aired a documentary in which Charlotte Sainsbury, a direct descendant of Rev. Chalmers visited Goaribari.

Today, sports really out perform art works. People will pay more than $1000 to a ticket of basketball game. And not a lot of people will pay that amount to buy an art work. NBA players seems like to make more money than artists. It's really a pity.

There's a wonderful book on the subject, called On Aggression. The author's name has momentarily left the page that my brain is scanning - one of the interesting phenomena that occurs with age. I'm completely confident that I will recall it in a little while, so the memory trace isn't gone, it's just temporarily inaccessible.

Does a great artist have to graduate from art school? The answer is no. There might be some great artist indeed studied an art school. But it does not mean that people have to study in an art school to become great artists. There  are a lot of great painters and calligraphers in Chinese history. But almost none of them ever studied in an art school.

It was then that the famous missionary Rev. James Chalmers and a party of 12 lost their heads and were eaten by Goaribari headhunters. Another missionary reported witnessing over 10,000 skulls in the long houses of Goaribari.

Much to the chagrin of some modern evangelical types, she offered these words to the descendants of those who executed the missionaries, I think my ancestor was wrong to come in and try to change you.

Art can not be learned. Actually, art techniques can be learned. Art talent can not. People can only learn techniques and knowledge in art school. They can not learn art talent there. Without talent, one can not become a great artist.

The lawful or unlawful context is socially determined and the implication is that while murder is always killing, killing is not always murder. This is in no way a revelation, but it seems few ever pause to consider it all.

Regarding other recent comments in this thread, my own interpretation of some of Udo remarks was that he may have meant to draw attention to this sort of cultural/moral disparity across cultures.

That particular event is extremely well documented, and despite happening over 100 years ago, seems to be an occurrence that left quite an impression - and one that remains on the minds of missionaries and their ilk to some extent if the frequency of references to the incident are any indication.

However, what is probably the most well known incident of this sort in the greater Papuan region, was not directly related to missionary activities. I am referring of course to the disappearance in November, 1961 of Michael Rockefeller while on a collecting expedition for the Museum of Primitive Art (when the museum was closed in 1976 the bulk of the collection went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

So I am very sorry for that, but I will go away with very very happy memories of Papua, New Guinea." Conversely, I should also note that in this same documentary the local headman expresses great reverence and esteem for the Rev. Chalmers and went so far as to say, because of his coming we are civilized."

In any case, one can see that Goaribari is a place with a colorful history, no matter what one interpretation of some of those events might be.

As for the Gope boards, they are displayed in the long houses and are the representation of ancestral spirits. They may be understood to represent what are essentially tutelary entities whose power and wisdom guide successive generations.


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Last modified: Tuesday October 18, 2005.