Each entry in the “Single Shot” visual anthropology series presents a single photograph or unbroken shot of video taken during ethnographic field work, plus a short description, with an emphasis on the researcher’s reflexive experience. The series editor is Dr. Natasha Fijn. Submit your own Single Shots to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taking photos and film was not central to my research practice, and as a result, my videos are most remarkable to me for what they didn’t capture. In this case, I caught a brief moment of anticipation: a troop of men walking single file through the forest, carrying fresh-cut throwing staves called bhole, preparing to raid the villages of their friends and neighbors and steal away their chickens and produce.
These raids were part of a ceremony conducted annually by a single clan in the countryside outside Bajawa, Indonesia. The villagers were well-prepared, having locked away most of their chickens and prepared gifts of liquor and coconuts for the raiders. It was great fun, and I was lucky to receive an invitation to participate.
Like the others, I was dressed in a boku headcloth adorned with ra’a beka flowers and a sapu sarong with no pockets, and clutched a bhole in one hand. Unlike them, I was going out raiding with an ungainly shoulder bag containing a large notebook and my phone, which I used to take these images. When the raiding began—as we burst from cover in a long line, shouting, laughing, and brandishing our staves—I gave no more thought to taking video.
Later, reviewing the notes I scrawled in my book during brief moments of quiet, when our party left one hamlet and headed for the next, I wished I had been able to capture the occasion with more immediacy, and in such a way that would have allowed me to make new observations after the fact, noticing details that escaped me in the heat of the fake battle.
Key image: a screen capture from the above video by Ian Pollock