The curse of paranoia
Sir Michael remains in intensive care

The under-recognised artists of PNG



WHEN YOU TRAVEL around Papua New Guinea you come across art in unexpected places.

As you step off your aeroplane at Jacksons Airport and enter the terminal the art confronts you as murals above the stairs, continuing on along the walls in the custom’s hall.

Meri + Bilum It’s something to admire while you wait in the long queue to get your passport stamped.

Outside there are concrete reliefs holding up the veranda and across the way the hotels display it too.

The art, particularly the paintings, are an old tradition adapted to a new format which is both innovative and exciting and receives very little recognition outside PNG.

When we were casting about for images for the cover of Sil Bolkin’s new book The Flight of Galkope, which is set in the Simbu Province, Sil suggested we look at the art of Simon Tagai from Kundiawa’s Gembogl district.

Some of Simon’s work, called Simbu True Life Tales, adorns the walls of the Mt Wilhelm Tourist Hotel in downtown Kundiawa.  Look at this wonderful impression here. And check out the website at

Mt Wilhelm Tourist Hotel 

Simon attended the Creative Arts Faculty at the University of Papua New Guinea in the early 1990s but left in his third year when he ran out of money to pay his tuition fees.  Since then he has been a freelance painter.

We reckon he’s in his late 30s but can’t ask him because he has just disappeared into the mountains with his brushes and palette.

Meris + Ceremony 


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Bernadette Olmi Alua

Hi Mr Bickel - I know its quite late but if you are still searching for the books about the Gallipoli fight and the warfare in Kokoda there are heaps of books of the war in PNG by the US and Aussie Armies who were helped by the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels. Check UPNG -ebsite.

Phil Fitzpatrick

All of the actions in which Papua New Guinean soldiers were involved in WW2 are documented in Jim Sinclair's 'To Find a Path: The Life and Times of the Royal Pacific Islands Regiment, Volume 1 - Yesterday's Heroes 1885-1950.

It was published by Boolarong Publications (Brisbane) in 1990. I got my copy from Pacific Bookhouse.

Its a good read. Some of the PNG soldiers were incredibly brave and efficient fighters.

What this has got to do with under-represented artists in PNG is a mystery however.

The Convenience Ordinance, Phil. Typepad has its limitations for commenters and there was no other convenient place to park Tim's request for assistance - KJ

Peter Kranz

Tom - There are many books written about the PNG campaigns. 'Kokoda' by Peter FitzSimons is good.

One interesting one which is actually written for kids is 'Angel of Kokoda' by Mark Wilson.

Of course there were many more battles fought in PNG apart from Kokoda, some little remembered now. The 'Black Cat Track' campaign is worth a book on it's own, but I don't know of one.

Also little recognised is the contribution of PNG people to the war effort (and not just the fuzzy wuzzy angels) eg Lance Corporal Sanopa who I think deserves a VC.

This site is worth a look -

Also worth checking is the Pacific Wrecks site -

I used to live at 2 mile overlooking the old Kila Kila airstrip and Horse Camp - a US army base in WW2 (aka 3 mile drome).

We could look out over the wreck of the old SS Pruth where the RKO film 'Red Morning' was made in 1935.

By 1944, Port Moresby had six airfields. Jacksons was the largest (now the main airport).

You can still see many relics if you know where to look. At ATS (the other side of Jacksons) you can see the original WW2 Jeep which was used to make the first roads in the area.

Much old WW2 Pierced Steel Planking (PSP)is still used for fencing. And I found an old concrete slab which some army wag had inscribed 'Australia was here 1942' when it was still wet.

Tom Bickel

My name is Tom Bickel. I am an American living in Kakegawa city, Japan.

I wonder if you happen to know of a book about a group of US or Australian army men who teamed up with people from the PNG to fight the Japanese occupying forces during WW2?

I read such a book about 10 years ago, but I can't remember the title. It also describes the Japanese succumbing to a lack of salt in the jungle.

It is also part mountain climbing story, as the writer tells about his climb up a misty and moss covered mountain, all the while interweaving the story of the fight against the Japanese.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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