HEADHUNT REVISITED retraces the improbable journey of Caroline and her friend Margaret Warner, who crossed the Pacific on a quest to find and paint portraits of the unspoiled civilizations of Melanesia. From 1926-1930 they embarked on an exploration of a remote world fraught with danger. Mosquitoes engorged with blood had to be snipped off with scissors; cockroaches the size of hummingbirds chewed on their toes; and a volcanic eruption threatened the very existence of the artwork. Nevertheless, they persisted, carrying with them a growing collection of portraits, supplies for new works of art, and just enough money to ship their bodies home if needed. After four years, Caroline returned with a wealth of ethnographic details including 25 oil paintings, more than 40 sketches, and journal entries that became the notes for two books on her travels.
As an artist, an explorer, and a woman, Caroline was already far ahead of her time. And while the norms of western society in her day would have allowed, and even encouraged, a view of Melanesian indigenous society as uncivilized and backward, Caroline – ever the vanguard – saw through the stereotype. She painted her subjects on their own terms, with pride and dignity, and her work is one of the first color interpretations of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islanders during the 20th century.
Eighty years later, Caroline’s adventure inspired two contemporary artists. In 2005 photographer Michele Westmorland set out to learn how Melanesian culture had evolved since Caroline’s journey. Remarkably, she discovered four descendants of Caroline’s subjects. Through HEADHUNT REVISITED Michele - armed with a camera and pictures of Caroline’s artwork - has joined important dialogue among Melanesians about their past, change, adaptation, religion, and culture.
Synopsis written by: Anderson Le