SEATTLE, USA - The modern mirror had not yet arrived in Enga.
Indeed, it never occurred to us that such things even existed.
We relied on each other to remove unwanted specks and smudges from our face.
There was little personal imagery we felt ill needed addressing.
We would help each other with face decoration of mud or ashes or other decorative material when it was required.
The first time I ever saw my face was in the side-view mirror of a Catholic priest’s motor vehicle.
I found it incredible and intriguing.
We would gather around the priest’s vehicle to get a glimpse of our faces when we came to church each Sunday.
We relied on our relatives to help remove dirt and other rough spots on our faces or bodies.
They would always compliment my desirable features - my nose, eyes, hair and body frame.
Regardless of perceived flaws, like all boys I was referred to as a laima, cassowary, which held the highest rank in the Enga hierarchy of birds.
The images of ourselves and the feeling of our inner strength were rooted in the community’s positive affirmation of its members.
It was planted firmly in spiritual understanding and in the authenticity we felt in our hearts.
Contrast this with today’s complex world, where self-image management has become an exhausting chore with a multitude of different persona, diverse workplaces, swarms of advertising, the cacophony of media, even church groups are part of it, and I’ll throw in selfies too.
We have created our own modern jungle to navigate.
I reflect on my childhood of secure simplicity and positive affirmation of what we were.
And now, it seems, the more we seek that inner self, the more elusive it has become.
Many mirrors; maybe not the insight.