Children of Papua 15

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Siblings at the Ladder

I decided to post this photo separately from a photo of the same kids which I used for Children of Papua 11 simply because I felt that the images have distinct qualities worth some degree of exclusive attention.  Of course the main difference is that the first one was mostly about their happy faces and the betel nut-chewing boy in blue while this one tells more about the house and environment they live in.  It’s mainly the soft, fading light which I really liked about this image but I’d reserve the technical commentary to those of you who’ve been faithfully leaving  inspiring  insights on this series.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Tall areca palms dominate the foliage around the village

Talking about betel nut, this village is surrounded by areca palms, the source of the betel nut, the tall slim trunks of which stand in lovely harmony with the high stilts of the village houses such as the one in the first photo.   The houses are of course made of  jungle (“bush”) materials but the wall planks of that house, I was told, came specifically from the trunks of an areca variety.  Easy access to the palm apparently helped the boy take on chewing betel nut, which reportedly has similar effects to tobacco, at such an early age.

I also wish I got a villager’s explanation as to why all the houses in the village are elevated on stilts . I just assumed that it served as protection from flooding since the village is along the bank of the Fly River but I was later told that flooding is the least of their worries. My next guess is that stilted houses are safer against wild animals (Notice that there is no handrail in that ladder which means one has to clamber up those steps to get to the living quarters) but that’s just my guess.  Apparently, the ground floor conveniently serves as a shed for various things including dugout canoes sometimes.