In Tanah Tabu Leksi and her two pets tell the story of grandmother Mabel, a woman from the Dani tribe, born and raised in Papua’s interior. The de Wissels, Dutch missionaries, take the bright 8 year old along to the city under the pretense of adopting her.
Mabel quickly adapts to being domestic help and is eager to learn, but her request to attend school is denied; “You know enough and learning too much will only harm you.” Mabel realizes the falsehood of the missionaries’ claim to better Papuans’ life when Christmas shopping proves more important than tending to a suicidal Papua woman, a victim of domestic abuse.
At the end of de Wissels’ term, Mabel returns to her village where, along with the Papua people, she suffers the consequence of the government leasing Papua’s land to Freeport Mc. Moran, a foreign mining company. Hoping to prevent her granddaughter Leksi from having to suffer the same lot, Mabel speaks out against the blatant injustice Papua is subjected to. She dies opposing the rape of the Papua land and its people.