Stealing with the Eyes, published by Haus Publishing in May 2018, is a memoir of anthropology, art, sickness, witchcraft, and unpaid debts, set in the Tanimbar islands of Indonesia.
Back in 1994, I travelled to Tanimbar Islands (Indonesia) as a trainee anthropologist. And there I met three remarkable sculptors: the crippled Matias Fatruan, the buffalo hunter Abraham Amelwatin, and Damianus Masele, who was skilled in black magic, but who abstained out of Christian principle.
Part memoir, part travel-writing, Stealing with the Eyes is the story of these men, and also of how stumbling into this world led me to question the validity of his anthropological studies, and eventually to abandon them for good. Through my encounters with these remarkable craftsmen, and weaving together Tanimbarese history, myth and philosophy, I explore the forces at play in all of our lives: the struggle between the powerful and the powerless, the tension between the past and the future, and how to make sense of a world that is in constant flux.
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A beautifully written evocation of a journey into the village communities of eastern Indonesia, and a remarkable meditation on the uneasy business of travelling to foreign lands in search of stories.Tim Hannigan