To­geth­er­ness sur­vives on a dot in the ocean

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

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.

Si­mon Canning

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