The last year of Caroline and Margaret’s great adventure was spent in the Fly River Territory. After all this time of gathering portraits and having to deal with hardships in the tropics, they made do with a palmetto tree turned upside-down and decorated with socks rolled up, flour to sprinkle like snow and a tin star nailed to the stub of the plant. Genius! What made it more special is that instead of having lights, the palmetto attracted fireflies that glowed during the night. What struck me most in her book, New Guinea Headhunt, are the last sentences.
“This Christmas our thoughts did not wander nostalgically the thousands of miles to home. We had been gone too long; we had learned what every good traveler must, to live our lives where we found ourselves.” – Caroline Mytinger
From the entire team of the documentary film project, may you hug your loved ones, spend time with family and friends and have joy in your heart!
I’ve had the pleasure of spending time at the home where Caroline lived the last 40 years of her life! Thank you to Jerry Fielder, Daniel Campbell and Rosemary Kennett for allowing me to sit and absorb what it might have been like for my heroine.
The Mytinger Project/Headhunt Revisited always focuses on stories of Caroline, Margaret, art and history. You may wonder why this one is so different but don’t stop reading! You’ll discover the connection for me and a topic so vital in addition to being so personal. Many of you already know how much I love the ocean environment and underwater photography. It was almost thirty years ago I first stepped onto the ground and dived into the waters of Papua New Guinea. It was love at first sight!
Walindi Plantation Resort is located in West New Britain and Kimbe Bay. Straight from the website for Mission Blue and the announcement that I’m celebrating.
“Kimbe Bay’s marine conservation history dates back to 1983 when couple Max and Cecilie Benjamin first opened Walindi Plantation Resort along its shore. The resort quickly established itself as a premier dive spot– the area possesses one of the highest biodiversity in tropical fish and coral in the world. The Benjamins noticed, however, that the state of the world’s reefs had begun to decline. In 1997, they opened Mahonia Na Dari, or ‘Guardians of the Sea’, right next door. Today, Mahonia Na Dari along with James Cook University run the Marine Environment Education Program (MEEP) in which local students of all ages are equipped with the training, tools and knowledge to conserve the Bay’s marine environment for their community and the world.”
To read the full announcement just follow this link: Mission Blue – Kimbe Bay Hope Spot.
It was the friendships I established, and the lessons learned that my journey to Headhunt Revisited began.That was almost twenty years ago when I first read Caroline Mytinger’s books. It it weren’t for the people I now consider family, the project, expedition on board the MV FeBrina, and continued support would never have resulted in the completed documentary film.
Mentioned above is Mahonia Na Dari, means Guardian of the Sea, in the local Bakovi language. I’ve had the pleasure to visit the research center on many occasions and speak about it in magazine articles. The work done is inclusive of the communities that depend on the health of the bay and teaches the younger generation the value of the sea. As we speak, the local efforts in mangrove restoration is admirable.
Caroline and Margaret spent some time not far away in Rabaul, East New Britain. I know they would both be celebrating the diversity and the beauty of Kimbe Bay! I’d also like to thank International League of Conservation Photographers for the letter of support in the application process to Mission Blue to make Kimbe Bay a Hope Spot.
The new Pacific Northwest Chapter of Society of Woman Geographers was held October 18th at the home of Randa Kayyali Privett in Seattle. It was a lovely event attended by an intimate group of extremely strong and brilliant SWG members.
Left to right –
Bottom Row: Ann Jarris, Michele Westmorland, Jennifer Thomas
Top Row: Terry Glenn (the oldest member of SWG!), Helen “Gilly” Burlingham, Gilly Burlingham, Randa Privett (host), Elisabeth Eaves, Stacy Bumback.
We started the evening with informal introductions, wine and appetizers, followed by a presentation by me about the process of making the documentary film.The lecture spoke to the inspiration, the expedition (proudly carrying the SWG flag), the challenges and the success of this long-term project.
Following the presentation, there was a lively discussion and many interesting questions asked by our group. PNW members were delighted that the longest-serving SWG member, Terry Glenn, traveled to the meeting from Portland for the event along with Helen and Gilley!
The focus and heroine, Caroline Mytinger, was an early member of SWG! The time was 1930, just after she returned with her friend, Margaret Warner, from their 4-year journey to Melanesia followed by the first exhibition of the artwork at the American Museum of Natural History under the auspices of anthropologist, Margaret Mead.
There have been many articles written about the film project but I am so proud that Caroline’s very own chapter appeared in a book written by SWG member, Jane Eppinga, titled They Made Their Mark. It is a powerful record of 24 women who dared, who explored and who succeeded. Frequently mentioned in my lectures, Malvina Hoffman, sculptor, and Amelia Earhart, pilot, were early members of this prestigious organization.
I am proud to be a part of Society of Woman Geographers and look forward to more opportunities to meet some amazing female explorers, scientists and artists! Thank you, Randa, for establishing the Seattle Chapter.
In the last newsletter, I paid tribute to John Wayne, expert carver in Marovo Lagoon. I am continuing the story because it’s so important to recognize others who appeared in the film, supported me through the journey and some new friends made during this incredible trip!
In Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, and with the help of our host, Visit Solomon Islands, I was reconnected with one of the first direct descendants discovered on our expedition. Caroline’s significant painting, Marovo Lagoon Family, is a very beautiful piece of art. Maike, the young man, was described by Caroline as “tall and elegant … steeled-muscled and sleek …” Maike was an artist himself – and a good one.
It took several days, but with the help of Ellison Kyere of Visit Solomon Islands, I was able to make connection with Terry Liva “Maike”. Terry lives and works in Honiara and although I only got to spend a brief time with him, it was such a pleasure to see him again and make sure his family had laminated copies of the painting and the film.
This is NOT the end of the story of my visit to Solomon Islands. When at Uepi Island Resort, the carvers from area brought over their stunning art. A gentleman approached me and said, “I know you! You bought my very first lobster bowl.” Yes, I did and it is proudly displayed in my home. Gary Ghuza has continued his work and created some absolutely amazing pieces.
Honiara is the capital of the Solomon Islands. During our brief overnights in the city, Tanya and I were able to visit the new Solomon Islands National Art Gallery under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. I was so delighted to see the reproductions of Caroline’s art gifted via Ambassador Catherine Ebert-Gray and Consular Agent, Keithie Saunders last year at the Melanesian Arts and Cultural Festival (MACFEST). The Assistant Curator is Julie Ann Fakaia and she is an artist in her own right with paintings also displayed at the gallery. I’ve reconnected with friends from the past – and made new ones on this amazing journey.
This month, I’m pleased to be giving two lectures about Caroline, Margaret and the power of art. The local chapter of the Society of Woman Geographers here in Seattle and the Northern California Chapter of Explorers Club in San Francisco are my hosts. Watch for updates!
On hearing the name John Wayne, many people would immediately think of the famous actor who stood 6’ 4” tall and who appeared in Western movies such as Stagecoach and many other the 1950s and 60s. However, that was not the case when I had the honor to travel to the Solomon Islands. This tribute is about a man, who is not the height of a giant movie star, but is a star in his own right when it comes to the world of wood carving, a tradition of producing beautiful art. Within the Solomon Islands, the John Wayne of this tribute is well known.
The John Wayne, I refer to, appeared in Headhunt Revisited where he discussed both his history and that of his great-great father, Kanijama. Those of you who have seen the entire film may remember his elegant appearance and strong passion for history. If you’ve not been so fortunate as to see this, a link to the clip is included below, or better yet, order your own copy of Headhunt Revisited: With Brush, Canvas and Camera through the website shop.
You can also see a short clip with John through this LINK to Vimeo.
With the assistance of Uepi Island Resort owners, Jill and Grant, contact was made with John. Jill had watched the film while our team was out diving and upon our return, she was determined to fulfill my wish of seeing John. It had been some 14 years since our expedition team had visited Marovo Lagoon for the initial filming of the project. We pondered whether or not John would be able to come to the resort? An hour away by motorized skiff may not sound like much, but if the weather failed to cooperate, it could prove challenging. Regardless, once contact was made, John was on his way. Meanwhile, I became anxious and nervous as to how much he would remember of the moments we had spent together so many years ago.
On John’s arrival, we greeted each other warmly. Signs of years gone by were showing on both of us. John’s hair had become speckled with gray and his eyes were no longer the deep brown I remembered them to be. The bluish cast is not uncommon in the eyes of the elder community of island life and indicates that cataracts are developing. Despite the condition, John’s eyes sparkled at seeing me, a question mark was evident on his face. He responded with a look of “I know you, but where from?” I reminded him of the lengthy interview we had done with the large camera and audio equipment and his eyebrows raised and a brightness shone across his face.
John and I soon retreated to the library area inside the lodge where Jill had set up the television so that I could share the Solomon Islands portion of the film. Watching it together was an emotional time for both John and myself.
John watched the segment in the film that featured his people and to share it with him on a personal level was one of my most special moments throughout this entire project. At the end of our afternoon conversation, John reminded me that I had purchased a small table from him in 2005. Time has passed and many changes have occurred in my life during those years that meant I no longer had the table. Problem solved! Through his cell phone, John showed me a photo of a table he felt I would like – it was designed with an octopus! How perfect that he should have this beautiful item depicting a sea creature. The ocean and lagoons of Marovo are rich with marine life; the deal was done. Travelling home with me on the long journey to the USA would be an even more magnificent table; a table carved and etched with John’s name. Now it’s time to have a glass top made and to locate the table in my home in a place where everyone who visits can admire this special piece of art.
The next morning, John arrived at the resort not only with the table but also with his son and 5 of his grandchildren. He wanted to share the moment with some of his family as opposed to just a delivery man. I was overjoyed!
I was in the Solomon Islands to work with three other amazing women with a focus on the marine environment and scuba diving. However, it’s always top of mind that we make the connection between the oceans and the people who depend on its health. A photo of an octopus on the reef is a fitting end to this newsletter.
Next month is going to be big for me on many personal levels! I have been invited to join a group of very special ladies for a visit to the Solomon Islands. Thank you to Susan Bejeckian and the leaders of the Tourism Solomons!
Tanya Burnett was recently inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame and I’m proud to call her a “sister” in the organization. Tanya is a respected photographer/writer and knows the islands well from her popular dive tours.
We will also be joined by Nicole Helgason of Reef Builders who is also a noted author. Charlotte Bailey is Social Media Manager of Girls that Scuba and based in London. One day of this special journey to explore dive locations at Uepi, Munda and Tulagi takes place on my birthday. Yes, the big 70 on July 20th.
What is much more important is I would like to honor and celebrate those who appeared in the Headhunt Revisited film. Just a couple of months ago, I received word that the eldest son of Maike appearing in Caroline’s beautiful painting titled “Marovo Lagoon Family” is deceased. Ujjiah Sotutu Maika, passed away not long after we filmed him. Ujjiah shall not be forgotten. Here is a clip from the film with him and his younger brother, Terry. Check out the video of descendants where Ujjiah and Terry appear at the end. Montage_Descendants
Caroline’s 1928 painting included their father and grandparents. I hope that I meet Terry and his family while on this very special trip. To give you an idea of what Marovo Lagoon and Seghi looked like while Caroline and Margaret were on their expedition, below is the magnificent painting and photos from the scrapbook showing what Seghe/Marovo Lagoon was like over 90 years ago.
There is another very special gentleman who graciously appeared in Headhunt Revisited. John Wayne (yes that is his given name) is a renowned carver. John is a true artist when it comes to traditional, contemporary and extremely intricate wood carvings. I have several pieces on my shelf and several depict the rich marine life of the Solomon Islands.
John told many stories of his great, great grandfather, Kanijama, who was a proud warrior. “Times have changed.” John explained. The culture changed with Christianity and colonialism and John is keeping his rich heritage alive via art and storytelling. I have hope that I will once again see John and bring another of his beautiful carvings home to add to my collection.
Caroline never had any children of her own however, while living in Monterey, she mentored many aspiring young female artists. I have had the pleasure of staying in touch with two of these women and today, both are successful teachers and/or artists!
Karen Scott: “I met Caroline Mytinger when I was in college; she was one of the most fascinating people I have ever met. In the ’20’s, Caroline travelled to Melanesia with her friend, Margaret, to paint portraits of people from cultures she considered to be quickly vanishing. No-one sponsored Caroline’s journey, rather she made passage fare by painting commissioned portraits while travelling. Upon her return to the USA, Caroline wrote two books detailing her travels and adventures, and her many portraits were displayed in the American Museum of Natural History. I am sure it was Caroline who inspired me to consider joining the Peace Corps. Still, travelling to Nepal via a US government program as I did, is both far easier and safer than Caroline’s journey by ship with little money, a minimal supply of art materials and a crazy plan to paint people she met along the way.”
Ina Kozel: “As a young woman and aspiring artist, I became quite close to Caroline.” Ina, after many conversations with Caroline, expressed “she wanted no obituary, no funeral, no stone, no to-do. Gone, she said, like a leaf in the wind.” She would be happy to know this film inspires a new generation of artists.
I continue to follow the path of artist, Jeffry Feeger, who not only produces stunning portraits, but encourages both his own sons, as well as other young Papua New Guineans to use art as a form of personal expression and a way to illustrate social issues. Jeffrey recently appeared on Good Morning PNG, a program broadcast by EMTV. With over 4 million viewers, EMTV is the largest television broadcast station in Papua New Guinea.
As an illustration of just how much artistic talent there is in PNG, I recently received my own set of personal pen/ink drawings from Michael Bolokon. The delivery service was generously arranged through the foremost tree kangaroo specialist in the United States, Dr. Lisa Dabek who, through the Woodland Park Zoo, works on the YUS/Tree Kangaroo project. Lisa kept the tree kangaroo drawing – I have the turtle, shark and birds for myself. Michael is now working on a “roo for you” and I hope to see him in the near future to collect this. No doubt, if you look at his art, read Michael’s words and description, you WILL be impressed.
“The designs, when you look closely, represents something in nature. The spirals are the wind and the waves – the triangle arrowheads are the traditional spear in the Highlands regions – the square and repeated patterns are found in the coastal parts of PNG – the flow of the lines are birds feathers and fur of mammals – the vein patterns are found on plant leaves, especially the deciduous or flat leaves with vein structures. Putting the patterns and designs on animals is a combination of how PNG exists through its flora, fauna and culture. Without one – the others fall apart.” Michael Bolokon
As we move toward the Christian celebration of Easter, the Jewish Eight Days of Passover, and the Buddhist New Year, I have been saddened by the terrible damage to one of the most iconic structures on the planet – Notre Dame.
As I was editing my last photo trip to the Maldives and Sri Lanka, I had Meet The Press Daily on with Chuck Todd. A statement made by Chuck struck me. “The future of the past is not guaranteed.” and the thoughts of this statement swirled in both sadness – and understanding. I looked back at the images from Sri Lanka, more particularly George and my ascent to the top of Sigiriya (Lion’s Rock). Sri Lanka is a multi-cultural island nation with the predominant religion being Buddhism followed by Hinduism, Muslim and Christian.
Those of you who have made the 1200 step journey celebrate this accomplishment in many ways with most identifying the physical demands to reach the top as number one. I had to think about it. Yes – was I thrilled to climb 660 feet up the steps on the shear face of this massive natural structure? Of course. But once at the top, I took in the view of the forests below that harbor some incredible animals. In addition to soaking the view in, I learned from our wonderful guide, Marlon, the history of this national treasure and World Heritage Site. Why did I quote Chuck? It reminded me that with everything currently happening on this planet, it is important to revere past cultures, history, and places of worship – architectural wonders of the world.
It is the experience of climbing Sigiriya that cemented the fact that nothing is guaranteed – unless we make it happen. As with the paintings by Caroline, there is a history of the Melanesian people through her portraits. In a review by the American Museum of Natural History while the very first exhibition of the Mytinger Collection in the New York Herald, 1930, it was said:
“Experts of the AMNH have judged her canvases to be such authentic representations that they placed the pictures on exhibit in the museum last month. Glowing with rich hues, vigorously and surely modeled, these paintings reveal, as no flat black and white photographs could, the actual gradations in the color of hair, eyes and skin of the various South Sea Island tribes, the muscular contours, the characteristic facial expressions of the different types and the vividness of their decorations and natural backgrounds. For this reason alone, quite aside from their artistic merit, they are extremely valuable records – and records quite likely to be unique.”
From the team at Headhunt Revisited, we wish you a Happy Easter, a Joyous and Kosher Passover, and Buddhist New Year on the first full moon in April.
Did you know that Caroline’s journey to Melanesia was written in her book as the “Expotition”? I loved the reference in Caroline’s 2 published books. So what was the meaning when author A. A. Milne so brilliantly told a whimsical story of a teddy bear on adventures?
“Pooh tells Rabbit about the Expotition (which he says is a sort of boat, which might not be exactly right, but we shall have to wait and see), and about the fact that they are going to discover a Pole, or it might have been a Mole.” Chapter 8 by A.A. Milne
Caroline and Margaret spent 3 birthdays away on their “expotition” and on several supply vessels, which were sort of boats with no luxury other than the cockroaches chewing on the cuticles of their toenails as their pedicure. So HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CAROLINE! Born on March 6, 1897, she was destined to be the adventurous woman she always wanted to be.
Not only did she and her pal Margaret venture from one location to the next via boat, they also traveled by foot, by canoe and even by horseback. Invited to stay at some early 20th Century plantations, they were generally gazed at by the male owners with questionable doubt. Where am I going with this? Not only as a birthday celebration but it’s WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH.
Caroline & Margaret in the Solomon Islands, circa 1927.
Excerpt from Headhunting in the Solomon Islands:
“It made us weary to have to do it, but there did not seem to be any other way out.The Expotition, an independent female expedition, had to let a man help. We had spent two days carefully snubbing and another day trying unsuccessfully to unsnub at the village when the Planter came to dinner. He listened and laughed and said he knew all the answers. He could get us a model in five minutes, God bless him, if we would meet him at the village not a minute later then six-thirty in the morning. We were to wear skirts instead of slacks so that there would be no doubt about our gender and we were to tether Friday with the horses some distance from the village, for the villagers were afraid of horses. But why tether Friday? And when the Planter explained, I didn’t see why we couldn’t go on from there alone after all.”
I’m also headed to chilley New York City to a sold out screening hosted by Wings WorldQuest, an organization that celebrates women of science and exploration. I had the esteemed pleasure of carrying their first flag on expedition when the organization was founded.
Watch for upcoming announcements as the word spreads for the film! Also, new items will start appearing on the website for your shopping pleasure. If you don’t have your personal copy of the film, order yours soon. I will be traveling on assignment and don’t want you to have to wait for delivery. Just go to “shop” on this website.
I fell in love!!! It was all quite magical and although he is a furry creature, his species is extremely connected to Papua New Guinea culture, the rainforests, and is endangered. So what does this have to do with my story told in the documentary film? It’s all about bringing attention to Melanesia with the diversity, both human and creatures.
I was honored to spend the afternoon with friends, Dr. Lisa Dabek and Penny LeGate. Lisa is an expert in tree kangaroos and is heavily involved with the protection of the endangered Matschie’s of the Huon Peninsula. Penny, as a noted journalist, traveled with Lisa on an expedition for conservation last spring. Check out Penny’s reporting here on Seattle Channel. At lunch, we talked about our love and passion for this beautiful country.
I’m sure you’re curious as to the fur ball I fell in love with. Introducing Ecki, the newest addition to the family at Woodland Park Zoo. This little joey is too cute for words.
It was cold, and snow still scattered about the grounds of the zoo, but we were delighted to be the guests of zoo-keepers, Beth Carlyle-Askew and Tamlyn Sapp, and allowed into the warm, cozy compound. Elanna, the mother, was calm and doing her mom job, while the father, Rocket, was peering through the screen from a separate space. I could see Elanna’s pouch was big and round. Then out came a little nose followed by Ecki’s beautiful face. I didn’t care if it was a challenging portrait to get. Just being there was enough!
Penny LeGate, Beth Carlyle-Askew, Tamlyn Sapp and Michele! Thank you, Lisa Dabek! You should have been in the photo.
To learn more about these amazing marsupials, click on this link for About Tree Kangaroos.
Woodland Park Zoo and the work of Lisa Dabek to protect and study Matschie’s is and has been a big focus to stabilize and protect the environment. PBS covered the expedition on their Nature Now story in December. Here is a bonus!!! A 10 minute video from the project “A Life Among the Clouds”.
Now it’s back to art and the role it plays in any society. When it comes to creativity and storytelling, few showcase it better than Melanesians. A young artist, Michael Bolokon, creates many portraits of animals, especially tree kangaroos and birds of paradise, in pencil sketches. His detail is absolutely stunning.
Although this is a bit of a diversion from the story of Caroline and Margaret’s epic adventure in the 1920s, the connection of art, animals and humanity run strong.