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Novel set in the Netherlands and Papua New Guinea (witness to history)

24th May 2018

Rituals of the Dead: An Artefact Mystery by Jennifer S Alderson, novel set in the Netherlands and Papua New Guinea.

Novel set in the Netherlands and Papua New Guinea

Once again we join Zelda Richardson, who gave up her job as a multimedia developer at Microsoft, to relocate to Amsterdam and study art history. She currently has an internship at the Tropenmuseum where she is assisting in setting up a forthcoming exhibition of Bis Poles.

Novel set in the Netherlands and Papua New Guinea

Bis Pole at the Tropenmuseum

Bis Poles are artefacts that have been made on Papua New Guinea for generations by the Asmat people, carved during a bis ceremony, a party of many days honouring the life of the dead. The Asmat people believed that an adult couldn’t simply pass away, they put the blame on neighbouring communities and such a festival would end in a headhunting expedition (you can’t say you don’t learn anything!).

There are two timelines, 1962 and 2017. In the early 1960s the area was still under Dutch colonial rule. Many of the items collected and shipped to the Netherlands back then are hopefully to be included in the upcoming exhibition, showcasing the beauty and artistry of the carvings. As the assembled curatorial staff, including Zelda, unpacks crates of artefacts from the period, including human bones – supposedly all Asmat –  a notebook falls out. It transpires that it belonged to Nick Mayfield, who was adventuring and collecting artefacts out in what was then Dutch New Guinea. His disappearance then becomes all the more sinister when a member of the present day team, Janna, the photographer, is murdered.

Father Terpstra was on missionary work in the area in the 1960s and it becomes apparent through photographic evidence that he and Nick were certainly acquainted. He too was a collector of some of the most astounding examples of the art. But it soon becomes apparent that he has something to hide… and he is not the only one.

The Anti-Colonial Brigade also make their views known, after all, the cultural history of the country had largely been stolen – sometimes by devious means. this is clearly a theme close to  the author’s heart.

This is an enjoyable and easy to read story of artefact collectors, with mystery and culture playing an important part.

Tina for the TripFiction Team

You can follow Jennifer on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram via her website. You can buy all her books through the TripFiction database.

Do also check out her Facebook Page Travel By Book


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