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Kundu & Digaso festival is restored after quake disaster

Kinjap - Kutubu women nearing Daga village on canoe (Pekinjap)
Kutubu women nearing Daga village by canoe (Peter Kinjap)


PORT MORESBY – In February 2018, Daga village located in the midst of tropical forest near Lake Kutubu in the Southern Highlands, was the scene of a devastating earthquake.

The quake was a disaster for more than 40 villages, claiming many lives, destroying houses and food gardens and displacing hundreds of people.

The remote Daga village was unknown to the outside world until nine years ago when it hosted a traditional party known as the Kutubu Kundu and Digaso Festival.

The event is hosted at the centre of Daga village, which lost its traditional Kutubu long house, to the shocking earthquake. Buildings surrounding the outdoor area where the festival takes place were also damaged.

“There is no fence or any white man’s roofing around it, nothing of any Western style around it,” event organiser, Ms Saina Jeffery, tells visitors. “It’s just all natural; the surrounding is natural and beautiful at the site.”

Ms Jeffrey said the festival was an opportunity to show the resilience of their culture and traditions and a chance to earn some money. “The festival itself is seen as an opportunity for the communities to stand together and say we have to come together to do something to survive, to get ourselves back on track after the disaster.”

Organisations like the Mineral Resources Development Company (MRDC) threw great support behind the festival. Despite setbacks, the locals with the help of the organising committee, rebuilt the long house and their homes to prepare to host the festival and its visitors.

With a festival theme ‘Yumi mas kirapim bek yumi yet’” (We must raise ourselves) the earthquake-affected communities came together to restore and rebuild.

MRDC general manager Imbi Tagune presented a cheque of K50,000 to the festival committee on behalf of managing director Augustine Mano.

“The 2018 festival showed the resilience of our people who have suffered the devastating impact of an earthquake yet had the strength and courage to pick themselves up and restore their lives just six months after the quake hit,” he said.

Mr Tagune commended the organising committee and the people of Kutubu for their determination to host and share their culture and heritage to visitors.

“MRDC has been with the people through the devastation of the quake, assisting and providing relief food, water and medical aid to the people, and by supporting the festival we want to help bring normalcy to their lives,” Mr Tagune said.

Kinjap - Festival dancers at  Wabag Show 2018  (Saina Jeffery)
Festival dancers at Wabag Show 2018 (Saina Jeffery)

The Kutubu Kundu and Digaso Festival celebrates the more than 40 different indigenous cultures that come together to salute the importance of the kundu drum and the trade of digaso oil. It also plays a vital role in safeguarding traditional practices and the diverse biodiversity of the Lake Kutubu region.

It is also an opportunity to promote sustainable tourism, which hopes to have socio-economic benefits for local communities in Bosavi, Kutubu, Semberigi, Kikori, Hela, Poroma, Nipa and Margarima, 60% of whom are women and girls.

The September event coincides with the PNG independence celebrations and features a colourful array of singsings, arts and craft and cultural demonstrating, and ends with canoe racing on Lake Kutubu.

Visitors in the past have included tourists, representatives of international tour operators, PNG Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA) and representatives of key partners working in the region.

TPA media coordinator Colin Taimbari described Lake Kutubu as truly an amazing experience and said it must be promoted. He called for a stronger partnership to improve roads and infrastructure for increased accessibility.

The next Kutubu Kundu and Digaso Festival will be staged on 21 September with the theme, ‘My Song, My Dance, My Story - saving my home for tomorrow.’

This year like previous years will see cultural groups travelling from remote parts of the province to participate in the celebrations.

Kinjap - Kutubu school children at Mano Primary School  (Pekinjap)
Kutubu school children at Mano Primary School (Peter Kinjap)

The festival was initiated by the World Wide Fund for Nature with the aim of reviving some of the lost cultures and highlighting the significance of the natural and cultural heritage of the area.

From time to time, companies like Oil Search Limited, Bank South Pacific and Exxon Mobil Corporation have been major sponsors of the festival event with donations of cash and kind.

The event promotes Papua New Guinea’s cultural diversity, sustainable livelihoods, tourism and other important areas that contribute to a better community.

The ninth festival will take place near the famous Lake Kutubu and the people of the Southern Highlands invite you to join them in this extraordinary tribute to their incredible culture.

This is done in an effort to help restore normalcy to the lives of the Kutubu people after the devastating earthquake.


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