THE STONE AGE ISLAND: New Guinca Today by Maslyn Williams


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(YA) The names of Australian New Guinea and Papua are probably most familiar as captions for a technicolor spectacle of barebreasted cannibals in National Geographic. Occasionally this eastern half of the world's second largest non-continental island is mentioned low in the totem pole of ""backward"" countries. Very seldom is any serious consideration given to it by writers outside the Australian Ministry of Territories, and the severe problems that arise from the clash of modern civilization and primeval culture remain overlooked by the rest of the world. The same was once true of its sibling Dutch New Guinea until Indonesian claims made it a political hotspot that finally commanded international attention. This report of an Australian documentary filmmaker's travels on the island is not primarily a political one. But the author's concern for the people-- tribal primitives not acquainted with civilization as their Australian administrators know it--makes him dwell on the measures being taken to introduce them to the modern world. Along with the inevitably colorful portraits of local chieftains, priests, peons and their lore, there is witness to the phases of development in self-government, social, economic and health programs, to the colonial officials and missionaries who are working to educate the people without trampling out their age-old ways of life. Essentially a travel journal, the observations are acute and sympathetic, and objectivity wins over most temptations to glorify the anthropological curiosity of the cannibals or the beneficent white fatherhood of their foreign masters. There is interest enough without it--not a tale of primitive adventure, nor an inspiration to run help the Papuans, but a competent introduction to a territory that will most likely take its place someday as one of those increasingly important ""emergent"" nations.

Pub Date: Sept. 11th, 1964
Publisher: Doubleday