Togetherness survives on a dot in the ocean
COMMUNITY is a word that has all but lost its meaning in the internet age. As we flock to MySpace and Facebook, pretending we share some common theme that binds us as a community, it seems we have forgotten what it is to be one.
That is what makes Bruce Parry’s Tribe so engaging.
This is the third series since Parry began venturing into the wilderness to find people whose existence depends on their communities.
Tribe is engaging and illuminating not only because Parry turns his camera on their way of life, but because he immerses himself in it to show just how different the tribal community is from the one we have manufactured for ourselves in the digital era.
This week Parry sails to a speck of land in the midst of the Pacific to meet the people of Anuta, an island barely 800m wide that is home to one of the most isolated communities in the world.
Only 24 families — 250 people in all — inhabit a piece of land that Parry readily describes as paradise.
However, despite the seemingly idyllic location, Parry manages to show that the island would be nothing without its inhabitants.
One of the last traditional Polynesian societies left in the Pacific, the people of Anuta demonstrate that they have survived because of their ability to function as a community.
This is displayed on Parry’s arrival, when he has to shake the hand of every inhabitant of Anuta.
During his three-week stay, Parry gets a taste of all aspects of island life, from fishing as you have never
Splendid isolation: A sense of community lives on among islanders seen it, to being called on to play the medicine man.
But Tribe is more than anthropological voyeurism.
Many of the inhabitants speak English well, partly because of the missionaries who brought Christianity to the island almost a century ago.
But many of them also went to school in places such as Honiara, capital of Solomon Islands. Yet, faced with the possibility of settling down in a city, they chose to return to the simplicity and community of Anuta.
Parry reveals that these people do have a choice: they are not part of some forgotten tribe that has somehow missed out on the forward march of humankind.
Parry brings this to us without embellishment or hyperbole, allowing the lives of the islanders to speak for themselves.
Along the way he shows what the meaning of community really is, and how for the rest of us it may have lost any meaning it once had.
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