The country of West Papua is a hidden gem that Jeremy Bally wants to share with his fellow Canadians.
Bally is from Victoria, B.C. and is biking across the country to raise awareness over what he says is the genocide happening in the country that borders Papua New Guinea located north of Australia.
“It’s a simultaneous human rights and environmental crisis. We’re talking about a place, which is home to the third largest rainforest, the most marine biodiversity in the world, among the most culturally linguistic diversity in the world,” he said, while in Thunder Bay earlier this week.
The Indonesia occupation of West Papua has placed the country under a media ban, so there are few avenues for stories to get out, said Bally.
He learned about the issue about two years ago and last fall travelled to the country to do some research and spoke to many West Papuans.
As he bikes across Canada, Bally has been stopping in towns and giving presentations on the subject.
But his presentation isn’t just reading information or a slide show. It’s a performance that involves song, shadow puppetry, a video and a storytelling piece that includes the voices of the West Papuans he interviewed.
“It all has to do with the people I talked with when I was there,” he said, adding he plugged a lot of the translated interviews into his story verbatim.
“I didn’t really think I had the right to speak on behalf of this whole nation of people I don’t really belong to. The best way I could was go there, ask permission and tell the story from my perspective,” Bally said.
The journey itself has been an adventure. Bally left Victoria on April 27 and hopes to arrive in St. John’s, Nfld. around Aug. 25.
“It’s been extraordinary,” he said. “I’ve met so many people. I’ve seen a lot of places and Canada is a cool country.”
Bally is also hoping to raise $18,000 on this trip for four English language scholarships for West Papua journalists.
“I’m trying to give them the capacity to bring these stories to the international community,” he said.
For more information visit pedaling.westpapua.ca.
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