Friday, December 27, 2019

A Death in the Rainforest

A Death in the Rainforest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea

A Death in the Rainforest
Don Kulick

Have you ever wondered what it's like to be an anthropologist studying in a remote part of the world? If so, A Death in the Rainforest is a book not to be missed. Don Kulick looks back at thirty years of research into the death of Tayap the native language in Gapun a remote village in Papua New Guinea. His honest account of his work and adventures in this village are no less than fascinating. What he discovered was not just a language that was dying due to neglect and the expansion of Tok Pisin, one of the island's national languages, but a village of interesting people waiting for change to come to their village.

Of course, change doesn't come without a price and Kulick experienced some of it first-hand. As tensions and violence on the island increased, Gapun was not immune. Kulick was at one point threatened by local bandits, and a villager lost his life, which meant Kulick could no longer continue his work. Instead of putting villagers at risk of further violence he chose to stay away for fourteen years. When he returned, the villagers welcomed him once again. His funny, warm and at times sad account of the changing way of life in Gapun makes for an informative an unforgettable read and one that I wholeheartedly enjoyed.

This review was written by me for City Book Review.

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