Agency, affect and archaeologists: Transforming place with rock art in auwim, upper karawari-arafundi region, east sepik, Papua new Guinea

Publication Name

Rock Art Research


Contemporary narratives and interpretations surrounding rock art production in present-day settings provide important insights into rock art practices in the past and present. These traditions can still be seen today in places such as Africa, South America, Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG). In PNG’s East Sepik region, rock art stencils are still produced by the Auwim people of the Upper Karawari-Arafundi region. This paper presents a case study from Apuranga rock art site in Auwim village, East Sepik, where Auwim artists created stencils during a period of archaeological research in June 2018. Interviews with the Auwim artists revealed the stencils were made to transform a once-feared rockshelter into a place that the community could use again without fear or trepidation. This paper explores the implications of these events, the mechanisms for the rock art creation, the impact of researcher’s presence, and their broader relevance to studies of rock art in contemporary settings. We argue that contemporary rock art creation in Auwim is embedded in a network of relationships that involve oral traditions, place-making strategies and emotional responses such as overcoming fear.

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National Geographic Society

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