OBITUARY: Arnold Clemens Ap: His West Papuan legacy lives on

1 July 1946 - 26 April 1984

  • Nic Maclellan Independent journalist and researcher, Melbourne
Keywords: Cenderawasih University, culture, decolonisation, human rights, identity, Indonesia, Melanesian, language, oral tradition, songs, The Netherlands, West Papua


Arnold Clemens Ap was born on 1 July 1946 on Numfor Island in Biak, at the time, part of the Dutch colony of Netherlands New Guinea. After schooling at church missions in Biak, he studied geography at the Teacher Training School of Cenderawasih University in Abepura, Jayapura, between 1967 and 1973. That year, he was appointed as the curator of the university’s museum, known as Loka Budaya, which became a centre for West Papuan cultural revival. His work to collect and perform songs in Papuan languages played a vital role in the development of a West Papuan national identity, transcending colonial boundaries and inter-tribal conflicts. He was murdered by Indonesian special forces in 1984. This year, 26 April 2024,  marked the 40th anniversary of the death of this charismatic cultural leader. For West Papuans, in exile and at home, it has been an important time for commemoration.


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Author Biography

Nic Maclellan, Independent journalist and researcher, Melbourne

Nic Maclellan works as a journalist and researcher in the Pacific Islands. As a broadcaster and correspondent, he has contributed to Islands Business magazine, Radio Australia, The Guardian, Inside Story, The Contemporary Pacific and other regional media and journals. He has written widely on the environment, development, decolonisation and demilitarisation in the Pacific, and was awarded the 2015 Outstanding Contribution to the Sector award by the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) and the Walkley Foundation’s 2020 Sean Dorney Grant for Pacific Journalism.


Glazebrook. D. (2008). Permissive residents : West Papuan refugees living in Papua New. Canberra. ACT: ANU E Press, Australian National University. DOI:

Ibrahim, R. (2021, September 2). Arnold Ap: Papua’s lost cultural crusader gets long-delayed recognition. The Jakarta Post.

Maclellan, N. (2023, December 13). ‘We are facing Goliath’ – West Papuan church leaders call for solidarity. Islands Business.

Musgrave, T. D. (2015). An analysis of the 1969 Act of Free Choice in West Papua. In C. Chinkin & F. Baetens (Eds.), Sovereignty, statehood and state responsibility: Essays in honour of James Crawford (pp. 209-228). London, UK: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

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How to Cite
Maclellan, N. (2024). OBITUARY: Arnold Clemens Ap: His West Papuan legacy lives on: 1 July 1946 - 26 April 1984. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 30(1and2), 246-250.