Living with the Mek

Chief Markus and Merengman Village boys

Chief Markus and Merengman Village boys

Chief Marcus is head of the Wisabel Clan. The Wisabels are a rich clan and the Pusobs are a poor clan.  Together, these two clans make up the sixty or so residents of the village of Merengman. The hamlet lies deep in the mountains of West Papua. Markus and his tribe claimed never to have met a white man until we arrived to live with them for four months.

I was show runner for a production company called Cicada Films who make lots of great documentaries. This was one of my all time favourite gigs. It’s not often you get asked to go find and then live with a tribe of (reportedly) reformed cannibals. The result was a series of eight one hour documentaries called ‘Living with the Mek’ or ‘The World’s Lost Tribes’. It was an intimate portrait of life in the village seen through the eyes of explorers Mark Anstice and Olly Steeds.

The Mekmem people are masters of their environment who have lived the same way for eight thousand years. But things are changing fast for them. The advent of the bible, tee shirts and Chinese lighters are challenging their traditional way of life. But then again with a life expectancy of forty years and an infant mortality rate of up to fifty percent, who is to say change is a bad thing?


2 responses to Living with the Mek

  1. And when you were there, was there any mention of how Indonesia got hold of these people’s lands? Did anyone mention Robert Lovett and the Freeport corporation manipulation of John F Kennedy to create the 1962 New York Agreement selling these people to Indonesia?

  2. Sam – Author

    I did a lot of research before I went to West Papua and talked to many people on the ground. There’s no doubt the politics of this region is controversial and could be the subject of many more films. But our brief for this series was very specifically to focus on the customs and traditons of the Mek.

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