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Where the Spirits Dwell


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In 1973 artist-adventurer Schneebaum (Keep the River on Your Right) went to Indonesian New Guinea (Iriah Jaya) to collect artifacts for a museum. There he met the Asmat, a people barely two generations removed from headhunting, whose culture, he writes, gave insight and equanimity to his own sexual preferences. There, each man had a male ``exchange friend'' (lover) in addition to his wife. Schneebaum was adopted into an Asmat family and became part of a culture hardly touched by civilization. Home base for his travels was a Roman Catholic mission; the priests were a relaxed, easygoing community, dedicated to the welfare of their charges. In addition to artifacts, Schneebaum collected tribal lore. He gives a vivid picture of Aswat men and their activities, but makes no mention of the women. For him, this journey was a milestone, a confrontation with himself. It is an exotic odyssey. Photos. (January 22)

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