Themed Playlist: Voices of West Papua

From Lucy Donaldson and Philippa Lovatt, co-directors of the Centre for Screen Cultures:


In April, The Centre for Screen Cultures held an event centred around a screening and discussion of Expedition Content (Ernst Karel and Veronika Kusumaryati, 2020), an augmented sound work by sound artist Ernst Karel and political and media anthropologist Veronika Kusumaryati (both associated with the Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab). Expedition Content is an immersive sonic experience that returns to tape recordings made for Robert Gardener’s ethnographic film Dead Birds (1963), the result of a five month expedition to West Papua, in the Baliem Valley among the Hubula people. The film brings that history into dialogue with the neo-colonial regime and ongoing violence being experienced by West Papuans today. 


We invited the filmmakers and musician, Korneles Siep, to discuss their work in a roundtable that brought a number of disciplinary perspectives and participants from around the world together.  


Following the event, we invited Veronika Kusumaryati to highlight the work of West Papuans for a list that celebrates the art and creativity of a marginalised community. If you would like to and are able to, you can make a donation to help support the Papuans’ struggle for freedom: Hapin, Papua Support Foundation is a non-profit organisation that funds small-scale projects which are set up and carried out by local people. These projects mainly focus on education, youth, health care and work.   




Collaborator on Expedition Content, Korneles Siep, is a Papuan artist/musician from the Baliem Valley and plays modern Hubula music with the Pikalu band. You can watch their music here: 






The Papuan group, Udeido, have mounted the virtual exhibition, Tonawi Mana, featuring young Papuan artists. It has been reported about here and can be accessed here:  You can also find more work here (including videos with English subtitles): 







Papuan Voices

Papuan Voices collective is a video advocacy initiative working with Papuan activists to more effectively tell their stories to the world, bringing everyday experiences in West Papua to a wider audience. Their website hosts a range of video work, and includes background information, a story map and sound track as well as news of the Papuan Film Festival: 








West Papua Updates is a non-partisan and non-profit video-channel that features the work of  “‘citizen video-makers’ and volunteers in West Papua and abroad…[in order to] provide spaces for Papuans to raise their voices, and to be heard by broader audiences”. 


This video is about a song called Mu Man Minggil (Path to Ancestor Land) created by Willem Giryar, one of the members of Mambesak Group, West Papua. 




This video documents the activities of Asmat women, a tribe who are famous for their carvings. The women (whose work has been given less attention than that of the men) are making Pir (a kind of plait) for a Christmas event. 




Ernst Karel (Palo Alto, USA) works with sound, including electroacoustic music, experimental nonfiction sound works for multichannel installation and performance, and postproduction sound for nonfiction vilm, with an emphasis on observational cinema. His work often focuses on the practice of location recording and composing with unprocessed location recordings. In the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard, Karel has collaborated with filmmakers and taught courses in reality-based audio. In fall 2019 he was the visiting fellow at the Center for Experimental Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania.

Veronika Kusumaryati (Bantul, Indonesia) is a political and media anthropologist working in West Papua. Her scholarship engages with the theories and historiography of colonialism, decolonization, and postcoloniality. She has worked as a curator and produced documentaries that were screened at the Jakarta International Film Festival, Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, and Tampere Film Festival. She received her bachelor degree from the Jakarta Institute of Arts majoring in Film and Media Studies. She was a member of the Sensory Ethnography Lab and currently a postdoctoral fellow at Georgetown University Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

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