Thirty years later, I have still not forgotten. It happened in the south of the Indonesian province of West Papua, a journey of two days from the “big city” of Merauke. Life in the small village of Yodom centered around trips to and from the ubiquitous, generous forest, provider of every need. The arrival of a South Korean lumber company brutally intruded on the traditional way of life. Workers started to fell trees. Word had it that a plantation of palm oil trees was to take their place.
While the helpless population watched the destruction of part of their source of food, the children in the village had eyes only for the bulldozers. But what fascinated my 12-year-old self the most was the strange object a Korean regularly held up to his eye as if he were aiming at something. “No one had ever seen a camera,” I remember. “When I saw the joyful reactions of the people who saw their pictures from the camera, I said to myself that me, too, I wanted to do that.”
My dream came true some years later when, after studying philosophy at the School of Philosophy, on the island of Sulawesi, I started work at the Office for Justice and Peace in the archdiocese of Merauke. “I began to write reports and use a camera to speak out on the rights of native peoples and environmental issues. This is how the project Papuan Voices started. [..] I wanted this to be an advocacy and cultural project to permit the people of Papua to tell their own stories in films. So other people could learn about them together with them.” Individuals and communities have memory, so the most important thing in advocacy videos is how to build a collective memory. I believe, when we have the same collective memory, the advocacy process that we build will continue to proceed and will not die. This is where video has a very important role.