Portrait of a girl-6, Kitava Island, Trobriand Islands, PNG
The Trobrianders practice many magic spells, and the spells for beauty are are chanted into coconut oil, and then a person rubs it onto their skin, or into flowers and herbs that decorate their armbands and hair, as you can see here. (This apparently works even for 'ugly' people).
In the early 1900s, the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski lived for several years with the Trobriand Islands and he wrote a series of groundbreaking books that still make entertaining reading today. A short summary of Malinowski’s observations can be read here: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/savagesex.
In Malinowski book ‘The Sexual Life of Savages’ he describes the fascinating sexual customs of the islanders where girls as young as 6-8 start freely having sex, and boys as young at 10-12 years old. As in this photo, the girls went topless, although this is now starting to change due to the influence of the missionaries.
Malinowski describes how, despite having sex from an early age, the girls rarely get pregnant, and the people don’t believe that sex is the cause of pregnancy. They believe that when people die their spirit takes a canoe to the island of Tuma, and when their spirit get old it shrugs off its skin and turns into an embryo, which a spirit takes back to the island of the living and inserts into a woman and makes her pregnant. Apparently this belief in the lack of connection between sex and pregnancy can still be found today. Since they don’t believe that sex causes pregnancy, there is no concept of fatherhood and the society is matrilineal since you can always be sure who your mother is, even if there is no ‘father’. However the mother’s husband shows great care and concern for the children.
Malinowski’s work influenced the young Margaret Mead, whose famous book “Coming of Age in Samoa” influenced the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Her description of matrilineal societies such as the Trobriand Islands (‘Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies’) was the cornerstone of the feminist movement.
Some other portraits of Trobriand girls can be seen here: http://goo.gl/92JRv
125 mm, 1/125 sec, f11, ISO 280, flash fill