My name is Maria Latumahina. I attended the TFT Diploma course 2012/2013. I am an adult educator who believes in social justice and people’s power, promoting Popular Education in my attempt to express who and what I am. My journey of self-recognition and re-identification is a journey of healing. My journey became doable because I shared it with my fellow Papuans having the same inquiry. It appeared to reflect how personal becomes political.
Indigenous Communities of Papua
Indigenous communities anywhere in the world, arguably live the legacies of intergenerational trauma. These traumas result from violent, painful and forced separations from their land, history, spirituality and abolition of customary institutions to name a few. Indigenous communities of Papua are not exceptional. My eight years of working with indigenous communities generated insights on internalized oppression. Their collective psychology has been dominated by feelings of anxiety, dependency and conflict as a result of being lost in the world of others. Eroded, self-prided and distorted identity is predominant.
Jane Munro’s research on the Papuan youth studying in the outer island discussed how the Papuan students struggle to meet the standard of what is considered modern and appropriate to make them feel accepted and to feel that they belong to the wider society. The stigma of primitiveness and backwardness has been institutionalised in the education system and social interactions affecting the internalisation of all the negative attributes among the students. Ruth (2016) pointed to the possibility of psychological oppression being internalised and is reflected in the way they think, act or feel.
Experiences and Reflection
The Case of Raja AmpatIn 2012 I started applying Popular Education with a group of Indigenous Homestay owners of Raja Ampat, Papua. Homestay in Raja Ampat is defined as a traditional accommodation provided by the Raja Ampat families. Guests occupy traditional guest houses made of traditional materials. All guest houses are built on the family’s customary land, allowing guests to experience traditional living of the Raja Ampat families.
We set up a homestay association. Membership has grown five times the initial numbers and the business generated more than six hundred jobs. Subsequently, the Raja Ampat homestay association was legally registered PERJAMPAT. PERJAMPAT has had many successes with a good marketing strategy and financial gain for members. However, members struggle with power dynamics that reflect their history of internalised oppression including abuse of power and submissive behaviour. My experiences and personal reflections suggested that working on personal and collective self-discovery is a pre-condition of community development.
The Case of Saribi and Submander of Numfor, Papua ProvinceIn 2019, I started engaging two villages of Saribi and Submander in Numfor island. Learning from Raja Ampat my initial dialogue with the two villages focused on understanding the reality of the communities by unpacking the socio-economic status and the psychological problem of the people. Applying Blended Conscientisation Methods of Training for Transformation and Memory Work Method we focused on the structural roots of income insecurity. By doing so, the community was given a space to remember, reflect and analyse their situation of upheaval. It enabled the community to name their problem and come up with problem solving strategies together.
The group eventually defined themselves the heirs to the land and identify themselves by the name Fyarkin, which means to guide. Members of Fyarkin are actively engaging each other; being innovative and productive. They have been rekindling their community by working together in revitalizing community gardening, producing and marketing produces such as salted fish, cooking oil and virgin coconut oil. The size of the organization has grown from fifteen people to almost forty people in less than a year. As their constituents grow Fyarkin has been actively positioning themselves following a clearly defined purpose and their value system. They positioned themselves opposing the dominant and corrupt government power structure however, internal power dynamics remains a day to day issue.
Covid-19 provided an opportunity to build the TFT team in Papua. I coach and support the team from a distance and they enter into the communities and work with them. Covid-19 has forced communities to look more toward cultivating the land and producing their own food. For this, social cohesion has been rejuvenated because communities are now working together doing communal gardening and producing goods as previously mentioned. Community members had to become more interdependent because they were all affected by limited access to market, health and education after things became more expensive in the midst of the pandemic. Even the Covid-19 tests are expensive – they cost more than a boat ticket. Overall things have been moving slower because we cannot have more regular meetings. Flights and other forms of transport are operating less than usual and this hinders mobility.
What I do is my identity. By applying TFT I managed to get as far as identifying myself with my work and supporting others in Papua in their journey of redefining themselves personally as well as collectively. My learnings with TFT suggested that tackling internalized oppressions and transforming the world we live in is a long journey of healing and discovery. On that basis, I started to build a local team in 2019. We call ourselves Papua Training For Transformation (YP3SP). There are five members and we have been working closely in supporting emerging community leaders and rebuilding community groups in Papua. The team is in a process of doing annual reflections with the community of Numfor to help them plan for activities they wish to do for the year. They have also partnered with Otto Gessler University – the team started with listening surveys. Findings will be analyzed and presented to the university to inform further research that will form the basis for Holistic Community Development initiatives within the community.