Ngat is Dead: Studying Mortuary Traditions

What does it mean when anthropologists claim to study the cultural traditions of others by participating in them? This film follows the Dutch anthropologist Ton Otto, who has been adopted by a family on the island of Baluan in the South Pacific. Due to the death of his adoptive father he has to take part in mortuary ceremonies whose form and content are however forcefully contested by different groups of relatives. Through the ensuring negotiations Ton learns how Baluan people perform and transform their traditions and not least what role he plays himself. The film is part of long-term fieldwork in which filmmaking has become integrated in the ongoing dialogue and exchange relations between the islanders and the anthropologist.

Ton Otto

Ton Otto, born in the Netherlands, is professor of Anthropology at the University of Aarhus. He has conducted fieldwork in Papua New Guinea since 1986, most of the time on Baluan in Manus providence with a focus on issues of social and cultural change. From his first fieldwork he has used video as a part of his research and analysis but also as a means of exchance with the local people who value receiving films on their culture. This is his first film intended for a wider public.

Christian Suhr Nielsen

Christian Suhr Nielsen, born in Denmark, is a filmmaker and a PhD student in anthropology at Moesgaard Museum and the University of Aarhus. His studies concern the place of the invisible in anthropological research and filmmaking. Christian is the director of the film Want a Camel, Yes? (2004), about a tourist-cameldriver interface at the pyramids of Giza, Egypt. He is currently working on a new film about large cultural festival, which took place on Baluan Island, Papua New Guinea, in 2006.

Steffen Daalsgard

Steffen Daalsgard, born in Denmark, is a PhD student in anthropology at the University of Aarhus. His studies revolve around topics such as leadership, the state, exchance, ownership and tradition with a regional focus on Melanesia and Papua New Guinea in particular. Steffen has previously worked as consultant for ethnographic exhibitions at Moesgaard Museum and organized the exhibition “Yumi Bildim Kanu” (2004), about outrigger Canoes in Manus PNG. “Ngat is Dead” is his first film intended for a wider public.

Director: Christian Suhr-Nielsen & Ton Otto
Production: Suhr-Nielsen & Ton Otto
Duration: 59 min
Country: Denmark/Papua New Guinea, 2007