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Twenty-four years after I visited the Huli tribe in Papua New Guinea, this image of a boy and his younger brother remain etched in my memory. Areas of the South Pacific country appeared in 2000 to be among the most primitive spaces in which Indigenous culture and communities continued to thrive. When I was young I’d pull out my mother’s anthropology books and marvel at the photos of Indigenous people unchanged and land immensely unshakable. They were my earth and grounded me with the stability I craved.

Hearing the recent news of the devastating earthquake and landslides that have killed hundreds and displaced over 8,000 people in Papua New Guinea, this photograph burst into my consciousness. Even though these boys are now Huli men and likely live in a region somewhat distant from the quake’s epicenter, I knew they must have felt the rippling impacts—as does everyone when people suffer the sudden eruption of a habitat, a home, a way of life, and traditions that are the heartbeat of humanity’s essence.

At a very young age, Huli children participate in century-old rituals involving dance, music, and body decoration. Ambua is the Huli word for yellow clay, a material drawn from the earth, mixed with pig fat, and used to paint their bodies and faces. Their feather headdresses call to mind birds; the intense rhythmic drumming drives the patterns and tempos of dances passed from one generation to the next without words of instruction. Looking at these faces, I feel the power of that yellow. I see in their eyes the innate knowing that equals stability. Once again, I recognize their spirit will forever be my unshakable earth.

Limited Edition


18 x 24 inches (45.72 x 60.96 cm)

24 x 32 inches (60.96 x 81.28 cm)

30 x 40 inches (76.2 x 101.6 cm)

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