Unseen existences: Stories of life from Venembeli, Papua New Guinea

Charles Roche
Eugene John
Nawasio Walim
Howard Sindana
the Venembeli Community

This article presents stories of life from Venembeli, a remote village in the hinterlands of Papua New Guinea. Caught up in a contentious mining development, villagers both long for and fear the development promised by global capitalism. But with a forty year development history, the proposed Wafi-Golpu mine has become the only lens through which the present or future is imagined and understood. We contend that this cultural hegemony has twisted the way stakeholders understand the mine’s outcomes and impacts. Mindful of the power of language and dominant cultures, we adopt a refined version of the Melanesian tok stori methodology to capture stories that, together with illustrations and our own observations, make visible and amplify the stories from Venembeli. The stories illustrate a different reality to those presented in the usual western, technical and reductive impact assessments; offering insights into a complex human story that requires contemplation and empathy if the communities are to be valued, heard and respected. The outcome of telling these stories is uncertain, but this emancipatory participatory action research will help readers and stakeholders to better understand the community, including gender relations, and to prioritise their human flourishing to ensure positive, rather than negative mining legacies.

Research Type(s)
Journal Article
Submitted by Rochelle Spencer
July 26, 2021
Published in
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