Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea: The U.S. Embassy Port Moresby hosted U.S. documentary filmmaker and award-winning photographer, Michele Westmorland, at the American Corner. Michele gavea a presentation to students and the general public on her documentary film “Headhunt Revisited With Brush, Camera and Canvas,” a project intended to foster dialogue about artistic representation, the history of cross-cultural encounter between the United States and Melanesion people, and the diverse cultural heritage of Melanesia.
Centered around screenings and exhibition of a documentary film and related artwork, the project will introduce new audiences in the United States and Melanesia to Caroline Mytinger’s portraiture of Melanesian peoples, her remarkable journey here in the 1920s, and the work of contemporary portrait artists working in photography and painting.
An American portrait artist, Mytinger traveled to PNG and the Solomon Islands in the 1920s on a hunt to capture portraits of the indigenous peoples.
After four years, Mytinger returned with a wealth of ethnographic detail including 25 oil paintings, more than 40 sketches as well as numerous notes and ephemera. In the ensuing years, she published two books about her journey which conveyed her respect and affection for the Melanesian people. Eighty years later, Michele Westmorland led her own expedition to Melanesia, retracing Mytinger’s journey to share this rare visual evidence of a culture’s history. Westmorland and her team encountered descendants of four islanders featured in Mytinger’s paintings, showing them significant links to their forgotten past and fostering a resurgence of cultural pride.
Mytinger’s art is one of the first and only colorinterpretations of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands during the early 20th century. Her work offers a unique record and invaluable resource for contemporary Melanesians. For American audiences, Mytinger’s story is a remarkable journey of exploration, with the unlikely main character being a woman.
Today, renowned Papua New Guinean artist Jeffry Feeger offers his own interpretation of Mytinger’s work, revealing both the cultural continuities and the dramatic changes that have occurred over the past 100 years.
Headhunt Revisited connects these U.S. and Papua New Guinean artists in a story that is personal and universal, illustrating with painting, photography and filmmaking, that all forms of art are instrumental in communicating stories of culture and tradition.