Return of the Tribe - Tuesday, May 15

return of the tribe(2/3)

Continuing this week on Five is the three-part documentary in which Donal MacIntyre guides six members of a Papua New Guinean tribe around Britain. In 2006, Donal visited the Insect Tribe of Papua New Guinea, who live deep in the jungle, far from civilisation. The tribe have a fascination with the West, and now they visit Britain for a fortnight to see a way of life quite unlike their own.

The Insect Tribe of Swagap, Papua New Guinea, hail from a village that sits above the waters of the Sepik River. The tribe live off fish and animals that they hunt in the jungle, and their chief source of income is crocodile skin. Now six members of the tribe are on their first trip abroad, having travelled 12,000 miles to witness life in Britain. This week, Donal decides to split the group in two. “To give the tribe a broader prospective on British life, we’ve found two families who are delighted to host the Insect Tribe for the next week or so,” he explains. The tribe will be leaving London behind and heading out on their own.

James, Stephen and Delmar will stay with the Tanner family of Weston-Super-Mare. The visit begins with the tour of the house, with the tribe fascinated to learn about various household appliances. They also wrestle with the concept of paying bills for electricity and gas: “In my own village, everything is free,” James says.

The next day, Mark Tanner shows his guests around a building site, where they are astonished to learn how quickly houses can be built. But the biggest surprise comes when they visit a retirement home. For the Papua New Guineans, the concept of elderly people leaving their families and moving into residential care is utterly alien. They meet Mary and Bob, a couple in their seventies, who try to reassure the visitors that their children love them, although they do not live with them. But James expresses his unease: “You make me worried,” he says, “because your sons and daughters are supposed to look after you.”

Meanwhile, the other three members of the tribe – the chief, Sam and Christina – arrive in Wales at the farm of the Binns family. At the welcome dinner, the tribesmen are surprised to see that Gwenda Binns is the boss of the house: “Normally the man is in charge,” Sam remarks.

The following day, the three visitors climb to the top of the valley and enjoy the scenery. Sam tries out a quad bike, before learning a bit about the Binns family’s sheep-rearing business. Although the tribe’s lifestyle is very different to that of the Binns, both they and their hosts depend on selling animals for their livelihood. Joe Binns invites the chief and Sam to visit a livestock auction, where they are fascinated to witness agriculture on such a large scale. The chief has come dressed for the occasion, having bought himself new boots and a flat cap: “Now I look like a farmer,” he declares. The tribesmen compare British pigs with the wild boar back home, noting that they have smaller heads and lack tusks.

To round off the week, Joe shows the tribe members how to catch pheasants with a hawk. The visitors are astonished to see a bird that has been trained to hunt, and vow to take the technique home with them. At the end of the day, Joe finds time to reflect on his guests, suggesting that their self-sufficiency means that they are less stressed than people in the West: “I don’t think that they worry about money in the same way that we do,” he says. Joe expresses his admiration for the tribe’s work-life balance, but there is one aspect of life that he would not swap with them: “I’d rather look after sheep than crocodiles!” he says.

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