An Oxford ethnologist, Leonard, travels to Papua in 1968 with his young Dutch wife, Rika, to take up a post at the university, and to further his research by filming the local Papuans in a remote village. Conservative and well-meaning, Leonard wants his camera to capture moments but not to effect any change. But this is Papua at the dawning of Independence and everything is change. Rika forms a close knit circle of friends within the university and the town. Laedi, a hafkast, and wife of the ambitious Don; Martha, a student trying to find her own identity; and Milton, a writer who wants to emulate his hero, the author James Baldwin. But it is the two Papuan brothers Aaron and Jacob, whom Rika is most drawn to. Thirty years later, a young art historian, Jericho, travels from London to Sydney to ask Martha to write the story of his parents and his heritage.