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Anthropological View


Introducing Kirk W Huffman

by Gary Hardy




Today we are proud here to introduce and welcome a new writer into our fold who will contribute a more than worthwhile anthropological article to what is rapidly becoming a unique on-line weekly publication each Saturday.

Kirk W Huffman is an Anglo-American anthropologist/ethnologist who has been resident here on the island of Ibiza since 1990.

Between 1966 and 1977 he pursued studies in Anthropology, Prehistoric Archaeology and Ethnology at the universities of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Oxford and Cambridge in the UK.

Being an anthropologist/ethnologist, his interests are in the vast array of different cultures around the world and he has tended to concentrate on relatively isolated, traditionally-oriented societies still following ancient and time-honoured lifestyles - the kind of societies that are, unfortunately, rapidly changing or dying out in our fast-changing world.

Since 1966 he has visited, worked with, or lived with well over 100 such societies ranging from tribal groups in North Africa and the northern Sahara to South America, and areas of the Pacific including the Solomon Islands but particularly Vanuatu (the former new Hebrides).

Kirk Huffman first went from Cambridge University to the then New Hebrides (Vanuatu after Independence in 1980) in 1973, then again in 1974 and 1976. This is in the Southwest Pacific - a rather small chain of 83 inhabited volcanic islands west of Fiji and south of the Solomon Islands - population only about 190,000 people (indigenous Melanesians) but with 113 different languages and a corresponding complexity of cultures Vanuatu actually works out as having twice as many languages and cultures as the whole of Europe! And they're not simple languages or cultures either; the languages are ancient and sophisticated the cultures ancient and complex. Since 1973 Huffman spent a total of 17 years in Vanuatu doing anthropological work, and his work still goes on, its a never-ending task.

Between 1977 and 1989 he was Curator of the (National Museum section) Vanuatu Cultural Centre in Vanuatu's capital, Port Vila. He came to live in Ibiza in 1990, but being appointed Honorary Curator of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre since 1991 has returned to continue cultural activities in Vanuatu every year (except 1993) since his departure from there.

His last visit was during September and October 2000. Since 1974 he has acted as anthropological advisor on over 30 documentary films regarding aspects of Vanuatu cultures, has produced numerous cultural radio programmes, has lectured widely in academic institutions ranging from the Metropolitan Museum in New York, Harvard, the University of Hawaii, the Royal Anthropological Institute, the Museum den Kulturen in Basel, (Switzerland), the Australian Museum (Sydney), etc. He has recently returned to Ibiza after a year as Visiting Fellow in the Anthropology Division of the Australian Museum, Sydney.

Shortly before leaving Ibiza last year for Sydney he was invited by the Society of friends of the Ibiza Archaeological Museum to give three days of lectures here for them.

Kirk has published widely in anthropological works regarding aspects of Vanuatu cultures and those of the public interested in some of this material should read his jointly edited work; Bonnemaison, J, K. Huffman, C. Kaufmann & D.Tryon, "Arts of Vanuatu", published in Australia in 1996 and also published by the University of Hawaii Press in 1997.

His anthropological interests are, however, more 'hands-on' than publication-orientated, he feeling that a significant percentage of anthropologists seem to be more concerned about publications than about actually helping the people they are writing about.

Huffman's concern is more with helping people and cultures to survive than writing about them, an approach he calls 'anthropology with a heart'.

Being based in Ibiza since 1990, Huffman has become an admirer of aspects of traditional Ibizincan peasant society, a culture now rapidly disappearing.

I am very pleased to write and inform our readers that the extraordinary Kirk W Huffman will be contributing regularly to our weekly publication (when he is here on the island or is somewhere contactable in the world) with items relating to Ibiza seen through an anthropological viewpoint and then sometimes expanded around the world.

Kirk and his Spanish wife Yvonne (also an anthropologist) live in a 15th century Casa Pagesa six kilometres from San Antonio in an area where (thankfully) no tourists go. Huffman would like me to say that although he has worked with many different peoples and tribes in many far-flung and isolated corners of the world, he has not yet met a tribe that he would class as 'primitive' or without culture, although he has asked me to point out that he has come across groups of people in places such as New York, London, Paris, etc, that might be classed as 'primitive and without culture'.

Confine: Kirk W Huffman was asked this question during a local island newspaper interview:

How would you define anthropology?

Kirk's answer was: Well, one of my professors at university used to say that it was "the study of mankind embracing women."

Gary Hardy