The Kombai live deep in the rainforest of Papua. From the 60’s, when government and mission reached these people, the modern world has reached their communities. Basic facilities such as education, health and social care are no longer unknown especially when that the area is becoming more and more accessible. A number of Kombai are now employed on the board or have found a job in industry or in education. Some young people are in university or follow a vocational training. But the vast majority of them still live in their kampongs, where age-old traditions and customs determine the rhythm of life and where they provide for their own food.
The Kombai call this way of life Mburu. Yet this Mburu is coming under pressure. Modern life slowly but surely affects the Kombai and thus uncertainty. If you can buy food, why would you still grow it? Who protects us when the jungle is cut down? Will we survive? And how? Since the opening of this almost impenetrable jungle, the third generation of Kombai has now tried to break free from the old Mburu life. But it is also far from ready for integration into a modern society. Many children in Boven Digoel or other kampongs in the area go e.g. don’t go to school and just hang out on the street every day. The Kombai live in an indeterminate time between the past and the future, without being able to indicate what is changing and changing in the world around them and what can still come their way. Concepts such as “future” and “progress” are abstract and unmanageable concepts for them, their closed world has so far played out in an eternal continuum in connection with their soil and their ancestors. But today they feel and notice that an irreversible and uncertain process has begun that takes them into another, unknown world. And we can best prepare and help them with that as much as possible.
Papuan researcher Edo Mote (Merauke) recently obtained a Master in Cultural and Media studies and focuses on research into the transition from tradition to modern times among the Papuans in the deep interior of Papua. He maps out the problem and advises the public administration to involve the local population in this. Edo visited the Upper Digul area in January and February of this year. Mote received a contribution from Hapin for his studies and research.
“We must help the Kombai use their parachute for them to make a soft and safe landing in the modern age” (Edo Mote)