Tokinana sola Bosubasoba and Tristan und Iseult

Digital Video / PAL 16:9 Anamorphic / Stereo
Duration 00:28:29:01

This work emerged during separate research on both the story of ‘Tristan and Isolde’, and the forms of magic studied by the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski on the island of Kiriwina, off Papua New Guinea, in 1915–18. There seemed to be very many similarities between the forms of magic to be found in ‘Tristan’ and those performed in Kiriwina, although the only connection between them is that recorded by Malinowski in his private diary when he notes: ‘Overcome by sadness, I bellowed out themes from Tristan and Isolde.’

At dawn on 4 May 2009, I recorded the poet and playwright Chief John Kasaipwalova as he narrated a new version of the story of ‘Tristan and Isolde’ in his native Kiriwinan; the story was not read out from a prepared text, and was told in a single take. The story was altered slightly in order that it might join with other Kiriwinan myths, most notably in the main characters adopting native names, Tokinana and Bosubasoba. The story is accompanied by shots of the cave at Bweka, a sacred place, which brings to mind, also, the cave in which the young lovers were exiled.