Bougainville the Brave
To somebody who watches documentary films, the name Bougainville may ring a bell. At least two multi-awarded documentaries were made about this obscure island in the Pacific; The Coconut Revolution and Bougainville – Our Island Our Fight. It may also sound familiar to activists and revolutionaries in the third world since Bougainville was dubbed as the site of the “world’s first successful eco-revolution”.
The Bougainville story sounds like it was the translation of Avatar (the 2009 movie) in real life. Rising against the broken promises and the significant ecological damage and social exploitation brought by a huge mining firm operating a massive open cut copper mine at Panguna (an area near the center of Bougainville Island); indigenous Bougainvilleans fought the Papua New Guinea Army, survived years of blockage by the PNG Government and eventually drove away the mining firm and earned autonomy of governance from the PNG government.
The documentaries told the tale of how the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), led by Francis Ona and the defecting Papua New Guinea officer, BRA General Sam Kouna fought with vintage World War II weapons and homemade guns, built mini power plants from equipment and junk scavenged from the abandoned mine, and processed coconut oil as fuel for their vehicles in order for the desolate Bougainvillean communities to survive the terrible effects the blockage.
For some reason, most of Western media did not report about the Bougainville conflict and so it’s no surprise if many have not heard of the place and why the now Autonomous Region of Bougainville (ARB) of Papua New Guinea remains relatively obscure. Nevertheless, it was definitely my kind of place. Simple, surrounded by nature (especially the sea), and isolated from pollution and the hustle and bustle of big cities. Unfortunately, I was there on assignment and my movement was limited to the focus areas of my work, only taking photos whenever I had an opportunity. Here is a glimpse of Bougainville the brave.
Related Posts by Shutter Bug:
- The Coconut Revolution (consciousmic.wordpress.com)
- Panguna may reopen as Rio warms to its old mine (asopa.typepad.com)