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Ethnobotanist and filmmaker at BYU lecture Jan. 14

To present research on Tongan culture

Ethnobotanist and documentary film director Melinda Ostraff will lecture on "Obscurity and Saliency: A Review of Tongan Women's Knowledge in Relationship to Tidal Areas" at the International Forum Series Wednesday, Jan. 14, at noon in 238 Herald R. Clark Building on the Brigham Young University campus.

Ostraff is an adjunct faculty member with the Department of Integrative Biology at BYU.

Her research has taken her to the Kingdom of Tonga where she and husband Joseph filmed "Traditional Healers of Tonga," screened as part of a special presentation at the LDS Film Festival in Provo, Utah, in November 2002.

That was followed by "Kau Faito'o," a film she directed that captures the essence of traditional healing in Tonga and that received an award from the Society for Visual Anthropology, and "Kuo Hina E Hiapo," directed by Ostraff and her husband, a film that investigates the collaborative process of "ngatu" making. Ngatu is tapa cloth made from mulberry tree bark.

The films show life in Tonga and explore the impact of Western thought on traditions. The latter two films were featured at the 41st Annual Conference of the Society for Economic Botany in 2000.

This lecture is open to the public and will be Webcast live. Those interested in learning more about this and other events at BYU's David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies should visit the Web site at

Writer: Lee Simons

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