return of the tribe (3/3)
Concluding 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.
In this edition, the astonishing journey for the Swagap tribe comes to an end. They have been living in England for two weeks to get their first taste of life in the Western world. Staying with two families, the six tribe members have gone their separate ways in the UK: tribal chief Joseph, along with husband and wife Sam and Christina, have travelled to Wales to stay with the Binns family; while James and couple Steven and Delma are withthe Tanners in Bristol.
In Wales, the Swagap trio are shown the art of falconry, and wonder how they could apply the same techniques to birds in the jungle back home. Virtually everything is a culture shock to Joseph, butnone so great as the morning he awakes to find South Wales under a six-inch blanket of snow. “It’s like sand on the riverbank,” he marvels. “Except thisis white.” The tribe were due to give a talk to students at the school where Glenda Binns is a teacher, but sadly the school has been shut due to bad weather. Instead, Glenda introduces them to the delights of a snowball fight, and soon they are bombarding their host with freezing cold missiles hurled with pinpoint accuracy!
In Weston-Super-Mare, the other three tribesmen are learning a familiar skill: archery. In Swagap, they craft their own bows and arrows to kill wild animals to eat. Here, it is merely a hobby, and they are intrigued to see that the arrows have feathered flights. It is something that James plans to implement on his return to Papua New Guinea. After getting used to the new-style bow and arrow, James and Steven prove just how accurate they are. They are also taken to a kids’ wildlife enclosure with artificial tropical conditions near Bristol, where Steven is frightened to see a venomous snake –it takes a giggling Tanner child to point out that it is just plastic. Steven is a relieved man!
Back in Wales, the tribesmen discuss polygamy over dinner. Steven explains that he has three wives: the first, Delma, to raise the children, and the other two to carry out domestic duties. How does Delma feel having to share her man with two other ladies? “I feel very happy because I just look after my kids,” she explains. “The other two wives have to look for food and cook for me.”
Sadly for the tribe, snow once again foils their opportunity to meet Glenda’s school kids the next day –and they had even brought their ceremonial outfits to wear. When the snow finally melts, they are taken to a golf course to have a go on the driving range. After a hesitant start, all three are using their excellent hand-eye coordination to great effect, and the trio are delighted to be presented with golf clubs to take home. “When I go back I will play it all the time,” says Delma.
There is great sadness when it is finally time for the tribesmen to return home. “We will never forget you and your people’s kindness,” says an emotional James to the Tanners. In Wales, the families exchange gifts and vow to stay in touch. “It doesn’t matter that they speak English and their skin colour is different,” says Sam. “They are the same as us.” The cultural learning curve has been steep for the Swagap and their British hosts –and although chief Joseph considers himself privileged to have been to Britain, he is adamant the tribe will continue with their way of life. “Culture and custom will not change,” he says. “I’m a great supporter of tradition. Development is not going to come.”