Watch the presentation video here.
In January and February 2013, Jeremy Bally conducted a series of interviews with members of the West Papuan diaspora – Indigenous Papuans who are living internationally. Among those he spoke with were musicians, students, activists, and former political prisoners. All of them identified as either refugees or exiles themselves, or having been born to refugees.
Those interviews were recorded with permission, and have been transformed into a story of West Papua by West Papuans. Now set to original animation, their story is narrated on stage through ukulele based hip hop and spoken word.
We believe that stories, when told well, have the power to change the world. Our vision for this performance is that audiences are at once engaged, educated and inspired to participate in building a peaceful future for West Papua.
Jacob Rumbiak: Exiled Political Leader.
Jacob grew up in the highlands of West Papua during the escalating violence of the 1960’s. He and his family fled to the jungle in 1967 to escape persecution, and a teenaged Jacob soon become involved with the militant Free Papua Movement. Nearly a decade later he left the jungle to pursue higher education. In the late 1980’s, he became an increasingly important and public figure in the rising non-violent resistance to Indonesian occupation. In response, he was arrested and imprisoned for 10 years. He experienced torture, spent 5 years on death row, and over 2 years in solitary confinement. He escaped in 1999 and eventually arrived as a refugee to Australia. Today he lives in Melbourne, and continues to work for his people as the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federated Republic of West Papua.
Marike Tebay: Musician. Nurse. Refugee.
Marike was one of 43 West Papuans who, in 2006, spent 4 days on a traditional double-rigger canoe crossing the Arafura sea between West Papua and Australia. She left on this dangerous voyage without her family, and as a refugee. She and her companions were all granted asylum by Australia. She now lives in Melbourne and is a member of the all West Papuan band Tabura, which aims to raise West Papua’s profile through contemporary and traditional music.
Ronny Kareni: Musician. Activist. Refugee.
Ronny’s family fled West Papua in the 1980’s, during a time when tens of thousands of Papuans were fleeing to escape violence. He was 2 years old, and recalls a childhood lived in a jungle turned refugee camp. Now living in Melbourne, he has become a public figure as an activist for the group Rize of the Morning Star as well as a member of the band Tabura, both of which seek to educate the public about West Papua through art and music. He is unable to return to West Papua today without risking arrest or execution.
Petra Rumwaropen: Musician. Daughter of Exiles. Mother.
Petra’s father was a member of The Black Brothers, the most popular band in New Guinea in the 1980’s. The band fled with their families to Vanuatu in 1979 to escape government persecution, as well as to protest the rising violence in their homeland. Petra grew up in Australia, and currently lives in Melbourne. She is a singer in the all Papuan band Tabura.
Oridek Ap: Musician. Father. Son of a Legend.
When he was 8 years old, Oridek Ap’s father, the musician and anthropologist Arnold Ap, was killed in prison by Indonesian Special Forces. Oridek’s mother fled with him and his three brothers out of the country, eventually settling in the Netherlands. His father, since his death, has been transformed from a influential public figure into a legend in contemporary West Papua. He is credited with popularizing West Papuan music from hundreds of different tribes, thereby nationalizing the disparate tribes of West Papua into a unified political entity.
Hermann Waingaii: Political Lobbyist, Refugee.
In 2006, Hermann was charged with taking a group of West Papuans from Merauke City on the South Coast in a traditional double-outrigger canoe across the Arafura Sea to Australia. They left as refugees. Upon arriving in Australia they sparked a media firestorm, and when Australia granted them asylum, Indonesia reacted by withdrawing their ambassador from Australia. He has since become an international advocate for West Papua, frequenting the UN as an official representative. He lives in Washington, D.C.
Maria Wenda: Wife Mother. Activist. Exile.
Maria is the wife of Benny Wenda, one of West Papua’s most recognizable international advocates. After Benny’s arrest in West Papua, she fled to the jungle with their young daughter. After Benny escaped from prison, they left the country together with their daughter as refugees and were eventually granted political asylum in the United Kingdom. Maria lives with her family in London and is an active member of the international Free West Papua movement.
Sebby Sambom: Activist, Refugee.
Activist Sebby Sambom currently lives with his wife and son at an undisclosed location, having escaped potentially fatal persecution with his family at his side. In 2012, 22 members of the non-violent independence organization KNPB (West Papua National Commission) were killed by military and police. This level of violence continues to escalate as more West Papuan activists decide either to leave as refugees, or risk death by staying in their homeland.
Wendy: Student, Teacher.
Wendy is a pseudonym. The real woman this name represents agreed to contribute to this performance on the condition of anonymity. She, with good reason, fears for her and her family’s safety if she takes a public stance on political issues in West Papua. We thank Wendy for her brave contribution, and respect the necessity of her anonymity.