Arts & music Feed

No 1 Neighbour: 50 years of contemporary PNG art

Simon Gende - No 1 Kiap bilong AustraliaQueensland Art Gallery

FIFTY years of contemporary visual art in Papua New Guinea, with a focus on the country’s relationship with Australia, is explored in a major exhibition opening at the Queensland Art Gallery from 15 October.

No. 1 Neighbour: Art in Papua New Guinea 1966–2016 will delight audiences with bold colour, towering sculptural forms, humour and hauntingly beautiful sounds.

This is the first time the gallery has presented an exhibition of this scale entirely focused on Papua New Guinea.

It draws together some of the earliest works from PNG acquired for the collection, generous gifts from Australians with long-term connections to the young independent nation, and works secured through the gallery’s flagship Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art.

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Melanesian artists invited to submit work to Melbourne exhibition


THE curators of an art exhibition in Melbourne, Australia, are urgently looking for Papua New Guinean artists to submit work for the upcoming Sampari Art Show in December.

The submission date is 17 October 2016.

The show, curated and organised by a team of dedicated volunteers from the West Papua Women's Office, is themed 'West Papua' and will feature the art of artists across Melanesia in solidarity with the West Papuan people.

Sampari coordinators in each of the Melanesian nations are working to attract submissions inspired by West Papuans, their geography, cultures, politics, history and environment.

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Ngaiire Joseph finds her voice on path from PNG to Australian Idol

NgaiireIAIN SHEDDEN | The Australian

SINGER Ngaiire is grateful for music’s therapeutic power. Without it, most likely she would not be where she is today — celebrated as one of Australia’s most promising female vocalists and enjoying rave reviews for her second album, Blastoma, released in June.

Certainly, Papua New Guinea-born Ngaiire Joseph’s prospects of performing in front of 20,000 people, as she did as a guest of producer du jour Flume at Splendour in the Grass in July, would have been remote at best had she not immersed herself in music at a young age.

It was her coping mechanism during a turbulent childhood that included her parents splitting up, and a potentially terminal illness.

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This original Kauage will raise funds for PNG-authored books

Kauage - Elekopta fly antapKEITH JACKSON

AMONGST the possessions left by the late artist and sculptor Hal Holman – which include so many of his own works of art – was one of his own most recent acquisitions, a large canvass by one of Paoua New Guinea’s most famous artists, Mathias Kilage.

At the request of Hal’s wife, Jo Holman, PNG Attitude is pleased to be able to offer this work, Elekopta fly antap (pictured here), for auction to assist provide money for what we’ve named the Holman Book Fund.

There’s information about the auction process below.

The Fund will ensure that Papua New Guinean authors can obtain supplies of their own published books sufficient to sell or to otherwise distribute, thus completing the cycle of getting PNG-authored books to PNG readers.

The painting on offer is a large Kauage acrylic on canvas measuring 116cm square. It is signed ‘Kauage Mathias OBE PNG Artis 2000’.

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Holman Book Fund will get PNG books to PNG readers


IT’S been a while since PNG Attitude asked readers to kick in for a worthwhile cause, but Phil Fitzpatrick came up with a good idea and now Jo Holman, wife of the late Hal Holman, has come up with the means.

The idea, which Phil brought to life in a piece last week, is simple: funds are provided to buy books which are sent to their Papua New Guinean authors to sell, hopefully retaining the proceeds to buy more books.

More PNG authors are stepping up to the plate to publish books, thanks to the CreateSpace innovation which enable free publication.

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Asylum seeker wins cartooning award from Manus camp

Eaten FishHARRY PEARL | Reuters

AN IRANIAN refugee held at an Australian-funded detention centre in Papua New Guinea has won a political cartooning award for his work depicting life inside the camp.

Ali, a 25-year-old whose pen name is Eaten Fish, has chronicled his three-year detention on Manus Island as he struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and debilitating panic attacks.

Under Australia’s hard-line immigration policy, anyone intercepted trying to reach the country by boat is sent for processing to camps on Manus or Nauru in the South Pacific. They are not eligible to be resettled in Australia.

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Clement Koys & me – cultural preservation through art

Clement Koys at workPETER KINJAP

IT WAS a Facebook post that caught my eye. He’d posted two of his latest paintings, this Facebook friend I’d never met in person.

Clement Koys is a talented and down to earth young man with passion and commitment. He’s a lad from Simbu now living in Port Moresby.

Clement’s paintings are attractive and eye-catching. But since I am interested in Papua New Guinea’s cultural heritage and do volunteer work on cultural preservation and promotion, I was particularly intrigued.

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PNG radio announcers Loqie, Didi & Elton release hit single

Loqie, Didi and Elton from 99.5 Rait FMAsia Radio Today

LOQIE, Didi and Elton from Port Moresby-based 99.5 Rait FM have released a song and a video that have gone viral.

The station’s popular breakfast hosts got the idea after Didi found a 10-year old video clip on YouTube of an original song from Loqie and Elton when they were in a band called Scholastic.

The clip had received 22,000 views and the songs had some popularity 10 years earlier.

When Didi played some of the audio on air, and the original clip was shared on the stations Facebook page, listeners suggested they audition for the TV Show Vocal Fusion, PNG’s version of Idol, that was about to run in Port Moresby.

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Painter in Paradise: William Dobell in New Guinea

Dobell and highlandersBOB CLELAND

IN April 1949, William Dobell, the celebrated artist and twice an Archibald Prize winner, visited New Guinea.

He was the guest of Sir Edward (E J) Hallstrom of the Nondugl Experimental Sheep Farm and accompanied by a number of others, including the authors Colin Simpson and Frank Clune.

Carrying with him only basic drawing and painting equipment, Dobell was captivated with what he saw, later commenting to Colin Simpson: “First of all, what appealed to me was the dignity of the people – a  surprising dignity. They had character that I didn’t expect…

“I feel that anything that I have done in the past has been done by some other artist, but these subjects have not been done. I can get something entirely new….”

Continue reading "Painter in Paradise: William Dobell in New Guinea" »

Dame Carol Kidu sues over film-makers ‘cinematic liberties’

Dame Carol Kidu (Kian-Yan Law)STEPHEN FITZPATRICK | The Australian

IT sounds like a classic tale: rapacious developers, a Third World shanty town razed to make way for a hotel, and the local MP who stands up for her adopted countrymen and women one last time to fight for their heritage.

Except none of it is true, according to the Australian-born doyenne of Papua New Guinea’s parliament, Carol Kidu, who is suing a Sydney film house she says seriously misrepresented her role in a Port Moresby property stoush.

Worse, she says, the filmmakers secured her involvement in their documentary, as well as Australian government funding for it, under false pretences.

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Wantok Musik Foundation to launch in PNG next month

Wantok Singsing (Wantok Musik)

ON Saturday 9 April, in association with the PNG National Museum and Art Gallery, the Wantok Musik Foundation will be launched in Papua New Guinea with a live concert at the Nora Vagi Brash Amphitheatre.

Wantok Musik Foundation, formed in Melbourne in 2006, records, releases and promotes culturally important music and arts from Melanesia as well as facilitating connections between Indigenous Australia and the Melanesian region.

The aim of the launch is to introduce the foundation and music label to PNG and provide a platform for promoting and preserving PNG cultures through music and the arts within the region and throughout the world.

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The hope that still remains in ‘don’t stop believing’


LATE night radio listening can unhinge even the sternest of iron-clad hearts.

The nocturnal audience across the Land of the Unexpected are plunged to the depths of melancholia then swiftly lurched to the heights of unshakeable assertiveness all in the space of nine minutes.

Disc jockeys are unsparing when exercising their powers as gadflies of emotional tranquillity.

But, whilst international radio stations cue playlists of trending hits and vocal artists, the Papua New Guinean music palette remains transfixed to the echoes of days gone by.

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Wantok Musik announces fellowship for heritage-mix band

 'Tribute to Tony Subam' by Leonard TebegetuDAVID BRIDIE

THE Wantok Musik Foundation, in association with APRA AMCOS, has announced the inaugural Tony Subam Fellowship, which is open to any band in Papua New Guinea that has a strong element of cultural expression in its work.

The fellowship is named in honour of Tony Subam, a former member of the band, Sanguma, which pioneered the use of traditional PNG music and songs in co-harmony with western styles of music.

The winner will be the band or group which the judges believe Tony Subam would have wanted to support.

Tony had a strong belief that what is unique to PNG music is their traditional songs and sounds, that PNG people must be proud of their cultural heritage and roots, and that too much music in contemporary PNG imitated overseas trends.

The recipient of the Tony Subam Fellowship will be awarded a recording session with acclaimed sound engineer and producer Emmanual Muganaua in Port Moresby.

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The long struggle: PNG musos fight for copyright & remuneration

Vagi Onnevagi, Ralph Diweni and the author, Oala Moi, in BrisbaneOALA MOI

I am a Papua New Guinean songwriter and copyright advocate living in Port Moresby, and this is a story about a struggle to properly remunerate PNG composers, lyricists, record companies and recording artists in accordance with copyright law.

We have won a few battles but the war is yet to be won and we still need support.

From independence in 1975 until 2002, copyright law did not exist in PNG. The situation changed in 2000 when Parliament enacted the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act which became law in July 2002.

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The art of John Bom – a long neglected PNG great

Pisin lon Paradis - John BomPETER KRANZ

ON our last day in Papua New Guinea, Rose and I wandered down to the ad-hoc market outside the Holiday Inn.

The offerings were mostly tourist trinkets and holiday kitsch, but then Rose saw someone she recognised. He was wearing a leather cowboy hat and sporting a magnificent beard. It was Uncle John.

Now Rose is inclined to call any PNG man who looks a bit older than her 'uncle'. But in this case he was related. His welcome was warm and fluent Kuman flowed freely.

Uncle John was an artist and he was selling his paintings. We were in a hurry to get to the airport, so grabbed a couple for a hundred kina or so. Then we rolled them up to be stuffed in a cardboard tube and bid him a fond farewell.

I had forgotten about this until last week when we were cleaning house. "Look at these!" I exclaimed.

"They’re by Uncle John - remember, we saw one of his paintings in Darwin," replied Rose.

And so I rediscovered the two sketches we had bought some years previously. They are amazing, full of colour and light, with skillfully etched outlines and infill.

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Myth & Magic: a grand exhibition of the art of the Sepik River

Paki guardian figure, early 20th century (National Gallery of Australia)SASHA GRISHIN | Sydney Morning Herald

Myth + Magic: Art of the Sepik River. National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Until 1 November

IN 1929 the Surrealist Map of the World was published in Brussels which redrew the world, not according to centres of political power, colonial empires or geographic land masses, but according to cultural and artistic significance.

For the Surrealists, with possibly Paul Eluard at the helm, the largest and most significant country in the southern hemisphere was Nouvelle-Guinee or New Guinea.

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Musician in paradise: a first encounter with Papua New Guinea

David-bridieDAVID BRIDIE | AUS-PNG Network

IN 1986, I followed through on Worthy’s advice and booked myself on my first overseas trip to Papua New Guinea.

I managed to convince four other mates, two men and two women, to accompany me on a holiday that took in Moresby, the Sepik, Madang, Manus, New Ireland and Rabaul. It was to change my life.

Escaping the Melbourne winter - ples bilong ice box as singer George Telek would come to call it - we spent a whirlwind two days in the dry bustling capital of Port Moresby.

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Painter in Paradise – William Dobell in New Guinea

William Dobell sketching an unidentified man, 1949 (National Library of Australia)S H ERVIN GALLERY

IN May 1949, the renowned Australian painter William Dobell (1899–1970), in an endeavour to escape publicity after his 1948 Archibald Prize win, left Australia with his friend, writer Colin Simpson, in the company of philanthropist and trustee of Taronga Park Zoo, Sir Edward Hallstrom.

He was one of 27 guests flown by Hallstrom from Australia to Port Moresby and then on to Hallstrom’s experimental sheep station and bird of paradise sanctuary at Nondugl in the Highlands.

It was the first time Dobell had ever stepped inside an aircraft and, despite initial nerves, he was captivated by everything he saw.

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Knight music: Chess as more than a black & white proposition

Peter and Rose KranzPETER KRANZ

UNBEKNOWNST to me Rose had learned to play chess.

I used to play the great game 20 years ago and still had a chess set in a cupboard. We retrieved it and I set up the pieces.

"But this is different," Rose said. “I’m Papua New Guinean, you’re Australian, so you play black and I play white.”

I agreed to that, but there was more.

“And every time we lose a piece, there is a musical forfeit."

Musical chess? That was interesting. I had a large collections of CDs and MP3s so it was feasible.

Rose had done her research and opened with the King's Gambit. I replied with the Domiano Defence.

"I take your pawn!” Rose exclaimed, “now you must play me a forfeit."

I offered the Freedom Medley.

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Anslom Gawi - the classical guitar savant of Mt Hagen

Anslom the SavantMARTYN NAMORONG

An entry in the Crocodile Prize
Award for Tourism, Arts and Culture

I was in Mt Hagen recently on my first trip ever.  One of the stories I’d heard about the hotel where I was staying was that it had the most exquisitely written menu.

My colleagues had joked about the overuse of superlatives by the menu’s author. One thing they did not mention though is that it had another trick up its sleeve.

On that first evening the wind seemed to have picked up and a slight drizzle sent the temperatures plummeting below my comfort zone. The grey overcast sky hung heavily against the black silhouette of casuarina trees and crooked spine of the ranges.

I sat at the restaurant trying to order from that colourfully written menu while watching wafts of mist rising from the cold water of the swimming pool and listening to canned music spewing of the speakers.

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National Museum to celebrate a nation built on culture

Amanab shield, West SepikMICHAEL KISOMBO | National Museum & Art Gallery

AN exhibition of exceptional works of art from the extensive collection of Papua New Guinea’s National Museum and Art Gallery is to be held to mark 40 years of Independence and display the foundations of the nation’s unique identity.

The Built on Culture exhibition, beginning in September, will feature more than 90 outstanding works from the museum’s collection of 80,000 objects. The exhibition will cover artwork from each of PNG’s 21 provinces and the National Capital District.

It will include enigmatic stone sculptures from thousands of years ago as well as paintings and prints by Mathias Kauage, Jakupa Ako and Timothy Akis, who, at the time of PNG’s Independence, forged a unique style of art fusing traditional stories with new forms of expression.

From the Museum’s storerooms will come stunning headdresses, masks and ceremonial objects not seen since they were worn in performances in remote villages.


My wonderful life’s journey with black music


THERE'S a black man in our house!" I cried.

Mum came in to my bedroom to comfort me. "Don't worry he's a friend".

It was 1959. I was an Australian kid living in London and had never seen a black person before.

Uriel Porter was a beautiful man. Dad had given him lodgings, which were scarce for black men in 1950s London.

He was a Seventh Day Adventist, so Dad had offered him a room.

In the morning they awoke me with piano practice. So it was I got to know Gershwin and Porter, the religious classics and Negro spirituals. It was a great way to wake up.

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New PNG museum ampitheatre honours Nora Vagi Brash

Boka Kondra congratulates Nora Vagi BrashMINISTRY OF TOURISM, ARTS & CULTURE

A new amphitheatre at Papua New Guinea’s National Museum and Art Gallery has been named in honour of PNG’s pioneering woman writer, Nora Vagi Brash,

What was 12 months ago an eyesore for Museum staff and patrons has been brought back to life with National Government funding.

Minister for Tourism Arts and Culture Boka Kondra was guest of honour at the opening of the rehabilitated facility.

Mr Kondra pleaded with the Museum and artists to use the amphitheatre and help the National Government revive PNG’s contemporary cultural heritage.

The Nora Vagi Brash Amphitheatre recognises a person Mr Kondra branded as “this exceptional woman and thinker”.

He said that her work had been “groundbreaking and timeless” and “had mirrored the growing pains of a newly independent Papua New Guinea”.

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Those concert parties of wartime PNG

Milne Bay concert party, 1942 (Roy Hodgkinson)
Milne Bay concert party, 1942, by Roy Hodgkinson (carbon pencil and crayons with watercolour). The members portrayed are listed below


THE armed forces of Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom have a great tradition of entertaining the troops in wartime through concert parties which bring popular entertainers to the frontline.

The tradition dates back to World War I when the generals decided to bring some light entertainment and comedy to the troops to keep their minds off more bloodthirsty matters.

The concert parties continued post-war in Malaysia (It aint' half hot mum, the popular television series used this as context), Vietnam and in other wars. As the Australian War Memorial recorded:

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On the contribution of black people's music


I know this looks like a ridiculous generalisation. And I only use the term 'black people' to provide a distinction with the music of 'white people'.

I mean the whities have Monteverdi, Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. And the rest.

What do black people have?

Well they have also have music which goes back thousands of years, in Papua New Guinea no less than elsewhere.

As Mana taught me with her Kuman singing (God nina unagle dingra wo wei. Naya sugl mola wo wei).

Then there is American Gospel.

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Uncle John and the art of making a little money from art

Green eyed gecko (John Bomai)PETER KRANZ

YES there really is a blue-eyed gecko. National Geographic identifies it as Smith’s green-eyed gecko but its eyes looks blue to me. And to Uncle John Bomai.

Uncle John captures the image beautifully in this painting. Just a snippet as my scanner isn't big enough to take in the whole work.

Who is Uncle John? Well he's a Simbu artist who can be found most days selling his works to tourists at the small street market outside the Holiday Inn in Port Moresby.

He's a relative of ours who studied under the famous Mathias Kauage but makes his living in the tourist trade.

Smiths green eyed gecko (National Geographic)I've found his works in Darwin, Sydney and London, so he is of some international repute, but these days supports his family on a few kina a week at Morata settlement.

A few year ago we walked into a hotel in Darwin on a baking hot afternoon and, lo and behold, there was a beautiful PNG painting hanging above the reception desk.

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Globally lauded sculptor Tom Deko feels underused at home


An entry in The Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism

TOM Deko’s passion for the arts has given him international exposure, enabling him to participate at various international art exhibitions including in Basel, Switzerland later this month.

Tom is from the Makia village in the Bena Bena District of Eastern Highlands Province. He has left for Switzerland to install a sculpture he created for the Basel Tropical Institute.

In 2005, he was commissioned by the Institute of Medical Research in Goroka to produce a sculpture portraying its work. Tom created a sculpture including a scientist with a microscope, a person holding a test tube next to a tree and a mosquito representing the disease.

Little did he know that this sculpture would gain him international attention and an invitation to showcase his work in Basel.

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Melanesian Arts Festival security chiefs inspect NCD venues

Security sub-committee inspects Arts Festival venueOALA MOI | Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture

MEMBERS of the security subcommittee of the 5th Melanesian Festival of Arts and Culture made security assessments of two major festival venues last week.

Led by subcommittee chairman, Noel Sarei, the team (pictured) visited Constitution Park, the main festival venue, and Sir John Guise Stadium, which will host the festival opening and closing ceremonies.

“We are here to see both venues so that the subcommittee inspects first-hand the grounds, entry and exit points, and requirements for security and protocol”, said Mr Sarei.

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An interactive electronic book on the spectacular art of PNG


Daniel Waswas paintingLiving Art in Papua New Guinea by Susan Cochrane, produced and distributed by Contemporary Arts Media / Artfilms as a two DVD set. You can purchase the book online here

IT’S AN ART BOOK FOR THE DIGITAL AGE and is the culmination of 30 years research, writing and curating activities in Papua New Guinea. It has morphed from its original concept as an illustrated art book into an interactive electronic book.

The aim of Living Art is to enrich people’s imagination and visual experience with the living arts of Papua New Guinea. It presents artworks and cultural performances that are astonishing in their dramatic visual effect and virtuosity.

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2013 in review: The state of the arts in Papua New Guinea


Luk Save Art ShowIN PAPUA NEW GUINEA state infrastructure and support for the visual arts are meagre, with most artists self-reliant. The National Museum and Art Gallery in Port Moresby is a repository of 55,000 anthropological and archaeological artefacts and 7,000 contemporary works, and led by Cambridge-educated director Andrew Moutu.

The 11th Luk Save Art Show (pictured) held in September at Port Moresby’s Crowne Plaza Hotel comprised around 200 artworks, ranging from drawings, paintings and sculpture to pottery and, for the first year, photography, by more than 56 artists.

The NASFUND Best in Show award was presented to Johannes Gelag for his woodblock print, Family Against the Storm (2013).

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A Christmas recollection about the best choir in history


MY DAD WAS A MUSICIAN. More specifically he was a choirmaster. We had an old Ferrograph tape recorder and he had some precious recordings that he held in high regard, including the Vienna Boys Choir, Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians, the LSO Chorus, Mahalia Jackson and Tommy Dorsey and the Golden Gate Quartet.

But the best of them all was the choir of King's College Cambridge. Christmas music for the ages.

We had some Aussie friends around for Christmas in 1969. Dad said, "I'll play you the best choir ever."

They laughed.

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Art, Independence & the Black Cat Track

MEGAN DOHERTY | The Canberra Times

Katy Gallagher and Jeffry Feege(Jeffrey Chan)A PORTRAIT WAS PAINTED of ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher at the Papua New Guinea High Commission in Canberra recently, coincidentally after the deadly attack in PNG on Australian hikers and their porters.

The painting, completed in just two hours by young Papua New Guinean artist Jeffry Feeger, was a gift to the ACT as part of its centenary celebrations.

It was also recognition of Ms Gallagher's connection to the country. Her adopted brother Richard Gallagher is of PNG-Chinese descent and he has decided to start the journey of finding out more about his heritage.

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Bougainville's 'Mr Pip' ready to premiere in NZ


Mr-Pip-1200THE AWARD-WINNING BOOK Mr Pip by Kiwi author Lloyd Jones has been given the big screen treatment and will open in New Zealand next month.

It’s been quite a journey for Kiwi director Andrew Adamson. Tonight's New Zealand premiere is two years on from the shoot, and a year after he first showed it at the Toronto Film Festival.

Since then, he's been busy re-cutting it. "The version I showed at Toronto was a lot harsher, and I felt it needed that at the time. I think to some degree I was desensitised," says Adamson.

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Ngaiire talks growing up in PNG & her debut album


NgaiireWHEN YOU THINK OF female musicians from Papua New Guinea who have migrated to Australia and who possess a truly amazing set of pipes, combined with a whimsical flair for style and their politics also appear to be in the right place, who do you think of?

Rightly so, maybe you don’t think of anyone. This is all about to change.

The artist in question is Ngaiire and she moved to the Land Down Under at the tender age of 16. The travels of her academic parents brought her to this foreign land.

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The spectacular art of Bougainville’s Charleen Morris


One day into the next by Charleen MorrisCHARLEEN MORRIS WAS BORN IN Bougainville and has worked in graphic design and art for more than 20 years.

These days, when not travelling, she is a Brisbane-based painter, illustrator and art consultant. Charleen is also prominent in supporting charities through her art.

It happened to be the inimitable Leonard Roka who first drew my attention to Charleen’s work. And I was knocked out by it.

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The next generation of Pacific artists is revealed


Sepik River Series, Jeffry FeegerFIVE OUTSTANDING YOUNG ARTISTS from the Pacific Islands region have been selected to the 2013 Next Generation Pacific Artists program.

Lalovai Peseta, Béatrice Camallonga, Francis Pesamino, Jeffry Feeger, and Yvonne C Neth now have their works on display in a virtual gallery organised by the Pacific Islands Society.

These exceptionally talented young artists each bring unique style and interpretation to their work.

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Reprising ‘The Kiap Song’ – sure caused a stir in its day

The Kiap SongThe Kiap Song appeared on the CD/DVD release of the band Not Drowning, Waving's 1988 album Tabaran.

The lyrics of The Kiap Song, written by David Bridie, certainly did not endear the band to some of the old timers in Papua New Guinea when they toured there.

A kiap was (usually) an expatriate Australian patrol officer in PNG's pre-independence days (pre-1975), but the term is still used today to refer to colonial authorities.

Continue reading "Reprising ‘The Kiap Song’ – sure caused a stir in its day" »

Tourism minister commits funds to arts festival

PHIL FITZPATRICK | PNG Resources Magazine

THE PAPUA NEW GUINEA GOVERNMENT has approved K453 million in funding for the fifth Melanesian Festival of Arts, set for July 2014, Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture Boka Kondra, has announced.

Rights to host the 2014 Festival were awarded to Papua New Guinea in 2010 at a Cultural Ministers Meeting in New Caledonia, home of the 2010 Festival.

The Post Courier newspaper quoted Mr Kondra as saying the funds would be made available from next year’s national budget.

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Collection of 400 PNG artefacts on the way home

TIMOTHY POPE | Radio Australia

Milne Bay artefact from the Keleny collection (University of Sydney)THE NATIONAL MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY in Papua New Guinea is preparing to take possession of more than 300 sculptures, artworks and cultural artefacts which are being returned to the country by a former resident.

Gabriel Keleny, 92, has decided to return the vast collection acquired over the 30 years he spent living and working in PNG. It's the single largest donation in the museum's history.

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Bougainville art project produces grim images


Bougainville art - Dominic 2IN 2012, the University of Papua New Guinea, PNG Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross began the Bougainville Art Project, aimed at giving Bougainvillean artists a platform to display their work.

Last month saw the project release its first publication, Painting memories and experiences of the Bougainville conflict, to display works about the period of civil war in what is now the Autonomous province of Bougainville.

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Exploring PNG’s interior & dangerously gritty Moresby


Papua New Guinea portraits & diaries. From the series ‘Portraits’ by Stephen Dupont, part of his Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography. Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2 May - 2 September 2013

THE PEABODY MUSEUM of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University in the United States will next month present a new exhibition on Papua New Guinea by award-winning Australian photographer Stephen Dupont.

As the Museum’s 2010 Robert Gardner Photography Fellow, Dupont returned to PNG and explored the mountainous Highlands, the serpentine Sepik River and the dangerously gritty capital city, Port Moresby.

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Don’t say ethnic or tribal - the word is ‘customary’

ANNA SOMERS COCKS | The Art Newspaper

Simon Goiyap, b1973, Kwoma people, Mino village, East SepikIN LONDON LAST NOVEMBER, the director of the Tate Gallery, Nicholas Serota, said that it would be spending around £2m a year—40% of its acquisitions budget—on art from outside Europe and North America.

The Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art in New York have announced similar policies.

The question is, how to find out about art and artists in areas of the world that often do not have an evolved gallery system or, indeed, a defined history of contemporary art (what does “contemporary” mean, for example, in Papua New Guinea or, indeed, in China?).

There is one museum that has been working on this long before everyone else: the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, which 20 years ago held the first Asia Pacific Triennial.

In 2006, the gallery opened the Gallery of Modern Art, forming Qagoma, whose acting director Suhanya Raffel says: “We now accept that contemporary art is syncretic and cross-cultural, that canonical assumptions about art history are routinely questioned.”

For this year’s star billing, Papua New Guinea, the Gallery of Modern Art has collaborated with the artists and the architect Martin Fowler, who grew up in PNG and has designed Papua New Guinea’s museum.

The first thing you see when you go into the Gallery of Modern Art is a huge painted gable of the kind found on ritual buildings in East Sepik.

Anyone can enjoy its splendid decorative qualities, but all kinds of ritual meanings are also bound up in it, and these have been respected by the gallery.

Members of the Kwoma Wangi clanWe are told that the senior artist of the team that came to Brisbane to paint it said the big spirit man, Puti, represented at the top of the gable, gave him permission to make this spirit house in Australia and to use synthetic polymer paints.

One may smile, but it is in earnest. There are also wonderfully decorative Papua New Guinean full-body masks.

The gallery has a good word for this art: “customary”, that is, the product of customs, which is much better than “ethnic” or, worse still, “tribal”, epithets that consign such work to the anthropological compound.

A stimulating essay in the catalogue is about how customary art is not static, as we tend to think, but evolves according to criteria of its own and in response to outside events. The message is: we have a lot to learn.

Sepik artists create dazzling cultural display in Brisbane

Nelson Makamoi working on Kurrumbu (spirit house) support postSEVEN KWOMA ARTISTS from the East Sepik have created a dazzling series of paintings and carvings for the 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at Brisbane’s Queensland Gallery of Modern Art.

The paintings and carvings have been combined within a large-scale structure based on the customary kurrumbu (spirit house).

The kurrumbu plays an important role in Kwoma cultural life and is used regularly by community members as a place where they can gather to discuss important issues, hold ceremonies and initiate new social and cultural developments.

The ceilings, structural posts and internal furniture of the kurrumbu are decorated with paintings and carvings that are closely tied to creation stories and clan designs.

The presence of the ancestral spirits embodied by the works assists community members in their decision making process, energises ceremony and inspires new ideas.

For the Gallery to feature the Sepik carvings and art in such a prominent display is a powerful recognition of PNG art and culture.

The exhibition opened yesterday and runs until 14 April.

Rex Maukos painting ceiling panelsThe artists are:

Anton Waiawas, b.1952, Tongwinjamb village
Rex Maukos, b.1960, Tongwinjamb village
Kevin Apsepa, b.1971, Ambunti village
Terry Pakiey, b.1974, Tongwinjamb village
Simon Goiyap, b.1973, Mino village
Nelson Makamoi, b.1982, Tongwinjamb village
Jamie Jimok, b.1982, Tongwinjamb village

Wahgi Hellcats: a rock band ‘born before its time’

KELA KAPKORA SIL BOLKIN | Supported by the Phil Fitzpatrick Writing Fellowship

Pat SiwiTHE WAHGI HELLCATS was a famous rock band in the Papua New Guinea music industry well before the Australian flag was lowered in 1975.

The band was humbly born in the Minj area of the Jiwaka Province in December 1973. The founder was a self-taught musician who started with a ukulele in 1963.

Pat Siwi (pictured) was only 18 years old when he started the band and since then he has become a household name.

He is now among PNG’s top music icons, just like the late John Wong, George Telek and Henry Peni.  His Wahgi Hellcats also sits comfortably among other top bands like Barike, Painim Wok, April Sun and Sirosis.

In the 1960s, young Pat had a very close friend, David Peri, who was a half caste Simbu-Sepik.

Pat and David attended Minj primary school and soon realized they both liked music. At the same time, they found one of Pat Siwi’s cousins, Siwi Muruk, who was also half caste Simbu-Sepik and who also liked music.

Pat, David and Siwi officially came together and formed a band in December 1973.  They named it the Wahgi Hellcats.

In those nostalgic days Pat was the main vocalist and played guitar. David was the harmonist and played bass guitar. Siwi had the drums perfectly under control.

They started playing around clubs using borrowed instruments. Most of the equipment was borrowed from the University of Technology where Pat was an architecture student from 1971 to 1973.

Since the birth of the Wahgi Hellcats many other musicians have come and gone, but the band has satisfied the test of time.

Siwi Muruk was a bit of a humbug and Pat had to keep an eye on him all the time. Fortunately, Pat was a natural leader and he kept the group together and the legacy they left in the highlands and the PNG music industry stands head to head with other consistent performers like Barike, Painim Wok, April Sun and Sirosis.

Pat Siwi’s leadership abilities were not a fluke. He is from the Enduga tribe of the Simbu Province and his mother is from Enga. Pat’s mother is from the first sister; Peter Ipatas, the proactive and popular veteran Enga Governor, is from the second sister. And Daniel Kapi, a former MP, is from the third sister.

“I thought I was born before my time. There was no music industry in PNG when I started,” said Pat.

Continue reading "Wahgi Hellcats: a rock band ‘born before its time’" »

The writers of our songs are the true national leaders

GANJIKI D WAYNE | Supported by the Bea Amaya Writing Fellowship

PNG Graphic (The Future Sound of London)“Let me write the songs of a nation: I don’t care who writes the laws” - Andrew Fletcher, Scottish politician

WHEN HE FIRST TOOK OFFICE I used to hear news about Governor Powes Parkop’s vision to clean the city and the people’s mindsets by the year 2012.

With that year coming to an end now, how have we fared? Have we changed?

Parkop posed the question to a workshop of certain middle level bureaucrats, “How do we get people to change their mindsets and attitudes?” Indeed: “How?”

Mindsets and attitudes cannot be legislated or regulated into being. They exist free of the external things we set up to control society.

Conscience is the freest component of a human person. Inserted and guaranteed by God Himself. I could even say that the freedom of conscience is a freedom more precious than liberty itself.

Throughout history and even today people have sacrificed their physical freedom and even their lives to keep their consciences free. And the most powerful of people have been those who have been able to permeate people’s conscience.

Leadership, I heard from Myles Munroe, is the ability to influence human behaviour. Human behaviour is a product of the human conscience. Leadership is therefore the ability to influence the human conscience to such an extent as it affects human behaviour.

All these matters considered, I have concluded who the real leaders of this nation are.

They are not the prime ministers, the members of parliament or the nation’s top bureaucrats. They are not the ones who possess power or control over vast amounts of money or land or people. They are not those who have many wives and massive wealth; or who drive successful businesses and expensive vehicles.

For me, the true leaders are smaller people. They probably live with relatives because they can’t afford rentals. Maybe they make their homes in settlements. They possibly have small blue-collar jobs that they struggle through every day.

But they are famous people. Known and loved by many who share the same everyday experiences they do. They are the local songwriters, singers, poets, writers and the storytellers. But I’ll focus on the songwriters and singers because that segment of the arts has more dominion in PNG than the storytelling, books and poetry.

The majority in this nation listens to music and song every day. And songs have the ability to stick and continually play in the minds of people.

The words, aided by music, can seep easily into our subconscious, shaping the mindset without us even knowing it.

When we constantly listen to the same thing we usually end up believing it—without even making a conscious decision to start believing. Sooner or later we start living out the kind of beliefs transmitted by the songs. Our behaviour is affected.

Human behaviour is shaped by what we constantly hear, see and read—by what is constantly communicated to us. Politicians can deliver speeches once in a while but their words do not dwell in our minds and hearts as much as songs and music.

Hence politicians, despite having the authority to make laws and the macro-decisions for the country, do not have much influence on the people’s behaviour. That privilege (or responsibility) lies with our song-writers and singers.

The problem, however, is that many popular local songs are full of negative themes such as self-pity and regret, low self-esteem, loss of hope (“I give up”) etc. They are uninspiring and narrow-minded. They stimulate fleeting desires that can never be satisfied.

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Bougainville stories come flooding back in new play

BRIAN KARLOVSKY | Hornsby Advocate (Sydney)

Robert CockburnIT'S 20 YEARS SINCE former London Times journalist Robert Cockburn, who was covering the Bougainville conflict, reported for his newspaper and the BBC on the murder of a young Bougainvillean bus driver.

But the chilling scene and the saga of a mining company's activities prompting civil war in Bougainville, is set to be brought to life in a fictional drama, Hotel Hibiscus, at the Zenith Theatre this month.

"There was the murder of a young village bus driver, who I found in the mortuary," Mr Cockburn, 59, said. "I felt so moved because it was an innocent who was caught up and shot and that's where the play began. It was very immediate and very personal."

Set on fictional Hibiscus Island in Papua New Guinea, Hotel Hibiscus is a brutally revealing account of Australian involvement in the six year "dirty war" on Bougainville.

Mr Cockburn, who also covered the Maralinga Royal Commission while Australian correspondent for The Times, said there were still a lot of questions to be answered.

"There was a recent announcement in the US Supreme Court where it had given them permission to bring a case on genocide and war crimes against the miners operating at Bougainville at that time," he said.

"That case is on going and brings the story right up to date and throws it into the future. I will be watching with a professional eye what happens in the court case."

Hotel Hibiscus is an Australian political thriller that questions our complicity and silence in war crimes carried out just 20 years ago. Thornleigh resident Robert Cockburn wrote it while he reported on the Bougainville conflict in the 1990s.

Photo: Kristi Miller

Sonnet 4: Before wet Adjectives the mighty Verb!


It seems some writer’s pleasure to conjure
Words of shimmering beauty, rich and rare
Verbose prose, wrought in great style and glamour
Express and expose; whose cupboards are bare?

It’s all about me and the things I see
My feelings and thinkings and fantasies
It’s all about them, what they did to me
Their foibles and turmoils and angst at me

Let a word put in edgewise be sharper
To cut to the chase, to search and to sow
To draw a map to a hidden treasure
To plant a seed so a mustard tree grows

Why write of our sorrow and misery?
Why not instead rewrite our history?

An old acquaintance – Mr Angry Anger


I know you! I see you! I now know you, I didn’t before.

You were here yesterday, last week; last month… you’ve been around a while haven’t you?

You know your way around, you know your paths of least resistance, and you know how to recognise your victims - the naïve, defenceless beings yet to learn your conniving ways, yet to recognise you through your crafty disguises.

You’re a smooth operator, suave, you know how to mingle, charm and entice your victims.

You’ve many a-times pretended and convince me that we were friends -

“I’m your friend, I’ll give you strength” I’ve heard you whisper many times before, and I believed you, oh did I believe you.

You convinced me our combination was invincible, indestructible and I thought we could do anything together and no matter what? No-one could ever touch us. You fuelled me with righteous indignation, which severed my power of reason, my rationality, and my mind.  Such was your luring influence, you master of illusion.

In our passion fuelled frenzies we built houses of cards and on numerous occasions you led me to the precipice of my life and tried to convince me against my mind that I could fly.  But then it all came tumbling down on me, I imploded as reality compressed around me while you, you disappeared into thin air.

Once again I found myself alone, floating in the middle of the ocean of life on that wooden thatched raft which is reality, which is existence, which is nature.

I forgive myself, for I am human and I am alive.  I am, therefore I can and will think.  I now know you are an effect, not a cause.  I, and I alone have within me the power to cause the effects I desire.  It may take a while, but there is land on this Earth, and I’ll get there on this wooden raft of mine.

We’ll meet again and I might even invite you to sail with me on occasions, but on my terms, I’ll be in control… not you.