etta lisa basaldella

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sing sing: a festival of peace

by antonella barina   poet

Etta Lisa Basaldella met the Papuan people in the beginning of 1980 during one of her many journeys abroad. On this occasion she witnessed a ”Thanksgiving Festivity" celebrating a peace treaty agreed upon by the inhabitants of two villages following a seven year conflict.
The images which Etta Lisa took and which we see today impress us not only for their technical perfection but also for what they represent: a display of warriors in striking symbolic dress of grand theatrical effect with the memory of the victims on both sides lurking behind.
Yet, in the dances of the men and the exchanges between the women, a sense of reconciliation prevails, conceived by the two communities as a shared goal.
A  “Festival of Peace” inviting reflection and a broadening of the female vision of the world, an opportunity to lay bare one′s other self, to understand one′s amazing, and at times, terrifying diversity: an invitation to all, men and women alike, to ponder over the significance of their own masks, in this case, warlike.
This ethnic group of Papua New Guinea lives by harvesting wild yam, bread-fruit and other tropical fruits rich in animistic implications and by the precarious planting of wild yam and taro taken from the forests. According to anthropological studies, these limited resources are frequently the reason behind the belligerence between villages, a residue perhaps from the days when the men of Papua stole the flute of Jugumishanta, the goddess of female traditions.
Perhaps the variety of wit and style with which the Papuans paint their bodies and dress themselves holds the key to the symbolic acceptance, satisfying both parts, of the peace treaty.
In addition, is it possible to overcome the practice of sacrifice? Can a festivity, made up of words, gestures and dances substitute an armed conflict? Which are the signs that can heal our own conflicts?     <back