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Encounters with the Dani.

Photographs by Susan Meiselas.
Steidl/ICP, Gottingen, 2003. 176 pp., 300 color illustrations, 8¼x11".

In 1988, Meiselas first traveled to the Baliem Valley in the remote highlands of New Guinea (today West Irian and part of Indonesia), a large island just north of Australia. The tribes in these highlands had only recently been discovered, in 1938, prior to which they had absolutely no outside contact. Their societal condition was officially 'stone age'; they relied on a mix of hunting and farming skills for their subsistence lifestyle. Encounters with the Dani is a history of contact with the Dani tribe, researched by Meiselas and presented in conjunction with the Nederlands Foto Instituut as part of the Photoworks-in-Progress series "Constructing Identity." Meiselas explains that "I wanted to explore the ways in which the Dani have been seen by travelers, anthropologists, missionaries, colonialists, and perhaps themselves, throughout this century." The result is an amazing volume complete with facsimile reproductions of everything from the comic book WAC in Shangri-La, which tells of the discovery of the tribe, to missionary leaflets, to the 1962 Life Magazine article on the Dani. Meiselas' own photographs of the tribe are scattered throughout the volume.

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