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DWU cultural festival promotes students’ ethnic heritage

DWU - Welda woman from Western Highlands
A Welda student from the Western Highlands

PETER S KINJAP

PORT MORESBY - Divine Word University community in Madang is always pleased to host its DWU Cultural Festival every year in the third week of August.

It’s a lively event with traditional songs and dances as students from all 22 provinces in PNG, Solomon Islands and Fiji take centre stage showcasing their cultures in what is something closer to a Pacific festival.

The people of Madang and visiting tourists and the growing expatriate community of Chinese, Filipinos and Europeans usually take the chance to see a sampling of the diverse cultures and traditions of Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.

Many students had their parents, guardians and extended relatives on campus to assist them with the preparations and performances as well.

The inclusion of mostly highlands parents was a testament to the level of pride and support they have for their student sons, daughters, nephews and cousins.

The highlands students usually appear more spectacular when their elders put the finishing touches on the face painting and traditional attire.

The annual festival is set by the university administration for the students to acknowledge their indigenous roots in traditional song, dance, costumes and folklore.

DWU - Siassi group from Morobe warms up
A Siassi group from Morobe Province warms up

Former president of the Divine Word University and now PNG’s education secretary, Fr Jan Czuba, says the cultural day is not a show but a day when students are given a chance to reflect on the importance and values of the indigenous cultures of Papua New Guinea amidst the influences of modern times.

Living up to the university’s slogan ‘Valuing our Culture and Heritage through Collaboration’, students from various provinces put on a lively display of their heritage through bilas (traditional regalia) and dancing and singing at the Madang campus.

It’s a proud moment when parents and relatives to see their young ones take to the arena to promote their culture.

The event, which has now become part of the Madang calendar, is one of the national cultural festivals recognised by the government through its PNG Tourism Promotion Authority. DWU, a keen promoter of Melanesian culture, encourages students to value their traditions and heritage.

It was established as a university in 1996 (it had previously been an institute) by the government under then prime minister Sir Julius Chan.

DWU - New Ireland female dancers wait their turn
Women dancers from New Ireland await their turn

The annual cultural event provides an avenue to bring together PNG’s shared heritage through songs, dancing and enactments of ceremonies.

Tourists will be captivated by the colours of the costumes, the differences in attire and dances you have never seen before. You can take as many photos as you like, and you might run out of space in your memory card if you don’t bring extra batteries and cards for your camera.

DWU as a tertiary institution is a special place for students from different backgrounds to come together and study and engage in peace and harmony. It is a beautiful campus, carefully tended and known as a safe, peaceful and pleasant environment in which to pursue one’s higher education.

Many times the international and local news is not good – wars, bombings, terrorism, tribal fights, rape, corruption, domestic violence…. there is too much violence. We should passionately discuss and debate the issues that face our nation, but not allow political rivalries to destroy friendship and unity.

How wonderful it is, how pleasant it is, for God’s people to live together in harmony and enjoy a festival.

DWU - Engan dancers were a crowd pleaser
Dancers from Enga are always a crowd pleaser

Here at DWU there is a cacophony of traditional songs, kundu beats, the stirring melodies of a brass band and the police bagpipers intermingled with the applause and delighted laughter of children and the shouting of adults.

In 2016, Ramu NiCo in Madang also took the opportunity to display its project by reaching out to the general public at the DWU cultural festival. The president of Ramu NiCo, Wang Jicheng, along with other senior staff visit cultural festival to experience firsthand the unique cultures of the country while also supporting the promotional activities of their company.

"I am very excited to come here and see the different cultures of PNG as shown by the dances and the beautiful body decorations,” Mr Wang said.

Academics John Imbal and Nathaline Murki from DWU’s tourism department, in a study of the festival, are investigating aspects of its promotion, program, economic impacts and visitor demographics. The assessment will provide useful information to improve and develop the event.

The university’s Student Representative Council (SRC) cultural committee organises the festival. SRC secretary Lavina Lore, a third year tourism student, said the festival will be on 17 August this year.

Peter S Kinjap is a freelance writer and a blogger, email pekinjap@gmail.com

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