Arts & music Feed

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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The little known concert parties of wartime PNG

Milne Bay concert party, 1942 (Roy Hodgkinson)PETER KRANZ

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.

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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.

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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.

Who would lead us Péngé?


In the temple of our democracy
The tome of our founding law
Has been torn asunder
And the desecraters
Elevated to demi-gods
For whom, upon corrupted altars,
Our children’s futures are surrendered.

But would we see our nation rise?
It is for us to become a sacrifice.

Who would lead us Péngé?
Would it be you my friend?

Go then to the temple
And hurl yourself upon the altar
A sacrifice for an unrepentant lot.

You who would lead us
What right is yours?
What glory?
What duty?
What destiny?
A privilege indeed
A blessed burden.

Two poems to mark the 2012 national elections


National elections in the Eastern Highlands

Campaign rally - Lufa Open ElectorateMultitudes move, with songs in noise;
many without a mind, a few without a stomach;
and a leader is all they want, funny a need it isn’t;
and alone I journey on, amidst no daffodils nor flags;
and an injured inner eye and a heavy heart is all I posses;
then multitudes sing again, many without a mind, a few without a stomach;
no wrinkles of love nor hisses of storms, but with more songs and a growing want of a leader.

Election dilemma

Two months and a week
Weary journey to seek
True words that flowed
From a wellspring glowed
Intentions of noble kind
On the roadBut now, did they mind?
Songs replace noble words
Noble words scurry down dark roads
Multitudes arrived without a brain
A few without a stomach is my gain
My favourite I’ll remain
Oh that’ll ever maintain

Justice for PNG lies in the ballot box


THE STAND-OFF BETWEEN Papua New Guinea's parliament and its judiciary reached a dangerous flashpoint last week, which can only dismay the country's well-wishers in Australia.

The rights and wrongs of the legal and constitutional points involved are too arcane for all but a few specialists to grasp fully. What is clear is that both sides of the political contest at the bottom of it are resorting to force.

The action of the Deputy Prime Minister, Belden Namah, in storming into the Supreme Court at the head of a posse of police, to order the arrest of the chief justice, Salamo Injia, for sedition is outrageous. Namah is not the instrument of the law, nor are powers of prosecution on other laws such as sedition part of his ministerial responsibilities.

It was a snap, unilateral political arrest. The police, legal agencies and lower courts should have no bar of it but it appears they have. Five months ago Namah gave amnesty to some armed soldiers who had tried intervening in politics. Now he sees sedition in a private emails between two judges.

Similarly, some police associated with the officer appointed as police commissioner by the ousted prime minister Michael Somare made a disturbing intervention. They blocked access to the parliament on Friday to prevent Peter O'Neill, who replaced Somare in August, recalling MPs to reaffirm parliamentary support for his leadership. This is a contest between the law, as the highest court interprets it, and the parliament. The constitutional dilemma remains.

O'Neill convened parliament and retains its confidence, gaining extra emergency powers. The chief justice remains on the bench, despite government efforts to suspend him, and the court's ruling that the ousting of Somare was invalid also stands.

Fortunately, this parliament is in its last weeks, as elections are due next month - a resolution in practical terms. Debate will continue whether Salamo was right to push things on such fine points of parliamentary procedure, knowing political chaos could result, when the voters have an early chance to decide. The Supreme Court's important role against political misconduct now seems greatly weakened.

That PNG gets a fair and well-run election on schedule is supremely important. In its 37 years of independence from Australia, it has stuck to the constitutional schedule assiduously, despite many problems in holding elections in such difficult terrain.

Politics have been debased at times by bribery and intimidation but elections have delivered political change accepted by all.

O'Neill has headed off a push from within his ranks to delay the vote. He and his colleagues must now apply all possible resources to ensure an honest, transparent election.

The next parliament will present a tremendous opportunity for PNG's 7 million people. The ExxonMobil liquefied natural gas project centred on the southern highlands will start deliveries to foreign customers in 2014. In its first year, it will boost gross domestic product by 20 to 25 per cent. Already, development work has given PNG the seventh highest growth rate in the world. The revenue streams will mightily boost the government's resources.

But much of the population still lives a subsistence lifestyle, growing and catching food, barely touching the modern economy except in the odd cash sale. How to connect that LNG revenue and other resources from tax-paying activity with that subsistence village world is the job of the government.

It means steady painstaking work in extending roads and boat jetties, harnessing communication leaps such as the spread of mobile telephones, improving security on roads and in market places, and building human capacity through schooling, health services and adult education.

We can only hope the next parliament focuses more on these policies and less on squabbling over the spoils of office.

A villanelle for the people of Paga Hill


The devastation of Paga HillMy tambus gone away,
The hut is lost and chill,
There is nothing more to say.

Through broken house and way
The winds blow bleak and shrill.
Tambus forced away.

Nor is there friend today
To speak them gud or ill:
There is nothing more to say.

Why is it we are then waylaid
Around the smashed-up shell?
They all are gone away,

And our poor wantok-way
For them is giaman still:
There is nothing more to say.

There is ruin and decay
In our House upon the Hill:
They all are gone away,
There is nothing more to say.

Rosaline and Roven import some PNG magic



WHEN DUBBO DAVE KESBY, who died last week, had to give away driving his cab because of ill health, he put his time into forming and playing with the Hornsby Berowra Ukulele Group (otherwise known as Hornsby BUGs) in Sydney’s north.

The 24-strong group played at Dave’s memorial service last Wednesday and now has been joined by two new Papua New Guinean residents of Berowra, Rosaline and Roven, who had their initial outing with BUGS at the Berowra Pub last Friday.

I think you’ll find their performance (which is now on YouTube) as exhilarating and joyful as the live audience did.

Thanks to Elissa Kesby for the tip-off. “They wanted to sing a traditional song and they seem quite at home with the ukuleles,” Elissa says. “I thought it was quite nice that this connection with Dave, unwittingly, happened.”

Me too. Because BUGS is part of Dave's legacy now. And I love the chocolate moment at the end of the clip....

Capturing the desiderata: painting a political star


Jeffry Feeger with Namah paintingWHILE I WAS DOWN IN SYDNEY, Papua New Guinea's very own deputy prime minister Belden Namah created a media frenzy; appearing on front pages of Australian newspapers with allegations made against him of sexual harassment, heavy intoxication and gross spending at Sydney’s Star casino.

So on Friday 16 March, the day before I left Sydney I decided to paint live in public outside the Opera House and portray our deputy PM in a more dignified, respectful manner, showing the kind of leader we wish we could have representing our country.

PNG's very own talented graphic artist Samson Korawali and renowned journalist Alexander Rheeney were also on hand to document every moment. Together we were able to muster a small crowd of wantoks and engage conversation with passers by.

This kind of impromptu performance and collaboration is what we believe to be the result of a significant paradigm shift in the expression of human beings, being spurred on by rapid changes in media technology and the social media revolution now sweeping Papua New Guinea and the world.

We hope that new forms of self expression through art and media can become powerful tools to guide, influence and inspire young people for positive change towards greater sense of self, identity and empowerment.

Photograph by Samson Korowali

See also:

Twelve haiku for Stan Jackson OAM


Japanese newspaper articlebattle fields divide,
ranks of men throw down their lives…
they will rise as one

in the aftermath
of war and through life’s changes –
hope for a new day

across the oceans
to a desert continent;
to build a new home

we have not heard tales
of the woman beside him;
from his we know hers

from one death, rebirth;
many new paths for a soul
to seek his own truth

rivers  flow apart;
in the salted ocean
they will meet again

high in the mountains
an old man leads a tour group…
on a bicycle!

a few broken ribs:
India is amazing,
as they say he was

a tale he told once;
he slept in a rice paddy
somewhere in Japan

once as enemies
they met across battle lines –
then he wrote them books

a great man we say,
but he was a good father
even before that

I know Keith Jackson
and that is now as good as
knowing Stan Jackson.

A poetic farewell to this Valentine's Day 2012

AS THE SUN SETS over Santiago, Chile, perhaps the last great city in the world to still be in St Valentine's Day, I can report that San Valentino is richly acknowledged here - hawkers bearing bunches of long-stem flowers, senorinas in full traditional garb - and a final poem from Papua New Guinea poet JIMMY DREKORE to skim around the globe....

Happy Valentine’s Day

If I am lost in the universe
I’ll write your name among the stars
You can see it every night
So you can remember
I love you to the ends of the universe

If I am lost on an island
I’ll write your name on the sand
The waves will carry it to the ocean
So you can remember
I love you to the depths of the ocean

If I am lost in a jungle
I’ll write your name on a vine
it will climb to the top
So you can remember
I love you to the heavens above

If I’m washed away in a river
I’ll write on your name on a pebble
It’ll find its way to the banks
So you can remember
I love you to the edge of the sphere

To the ends of the universe - see how wide is my love
To the depths of the ocean - see how deep is my love
To the heavens above - see how straight is my love
To the edge of the sphere - see how complete is my love

I shall love you from dawn to noon and hold you close to my heart
We shall leave all the pain and sorrow behind us
Embrace each other and look out into the ocean
Let our love sail far and beyond the horizon
For time is not our choice
If I’m given one wish
I wish you were right beside me
So I can whisper to you

Happy Valentine’s Day

I was torn


DEDICATED to the missing children of the sinking ferry.  Spend valuable time with your children and appreciate their little moments.  You never know if they may not be with you the next moment....

He woke me up
I got up

I carried him to the side
For a little ride

On my shoulder
No monster would bother

He slept again
I had to maintain

Under the southern skies
Stars smiled with glittering eyes

I listened to his breathing
He was communicating

Once or twice he smiled
And they smiled

I tried to see who
It was all blue

When I opened my eye
I see the sky

His last rest
was on my chest

I felt the emptiness
like the wilderness

the bitter cold
no one could hold

No more to tell
Only tears fell

My little Tonton
was gone

I was torn

Jimmy Drekore won the Crocodile Prize for Poetry in 2011.  He is president of the Simbu Children Foundation

Rabaul Queen may have carried over 700 passengers


Rabaul QueenMORE THAN 300 PASSENGERS are believed to have perished in the disastrous sinking of the Rabaul Queen during the early hours of Thursday last week, reports the Post Courier.

Reports reaching the newspaper have said the vessel was overloaded, allegedly carrying more than 700 passengers: 400 when it left Buka, more than 100 in Rabaul, and about 360 in Kavieng and Kimbe.

This is much more than the 350 that had been quoted in the media.

Chief Executive Officer of National Maritime and Safety Authority (NMSA), Captain Nurur Rahman, had indicated the ship was overloaded adding that its certificate allowed for only 310 passengers.

Rabaul Shipping initially advised there were 350 passengers and 12 crew members on board but survivors are now testifying that there were hundreds more on board that fateful voyage.

NMSA has also advised the total number of passengers is sketchy because there was no proper manifest from Buka, Rabaul and Kimbe as many passengers bought their tickets at the wharf.

Many survivors have confirmed this information and have questioned media reports that there were 350 passengers’ destined for Lae when the ship sank.

A story published on Facebook by a relative of a survivor says: ““From my younger brother, who was on board MV Rabaul Queen when disaster struck. ‘There were actually 780 passengers on board - 420 from Rabaul/Kavieng /Buka and 360 from Kimbe. Mostly young children, mothers and students. There weren’t any emergency procedures or demonstrations when they got on the ship and the shipping agency didn’t limit passenger intakes’.”

Using drama to end violence against women


Performance-to-EVAW-Papua-New-Guinea‘DRAMATISING VIOLENCE.’ That’s the motto of the community-based Seeds Theatre Group which is addressing violence against women and girls in the densely populated communities around Lae.

The group consists primarily of unemployed youth and uses theatre as a tool to raise awareness in urban communities with high risks of HIV/AIDS, crime and drugs.

It held 42 performances in January in public areas, including at markets, bus stops and public neighbourhoods.

How does the audience react to the performances? “Some feel guilty, others are concerned, and most women learn that there is help out there to protect their basic human rights,” said Willie Doaemo, technical director of the group.

“Many men who didn’t realise violence against women was a crime punishable by law have spoken up and promised to stop beating their wives,” he added.

On the other hand, the artists themselves have gone through a learning process by reading the scripts and performing.

“Women are seen as inferior in our society, and this thinking has been passed on from generation to generation,” said Teddy Iwara, one of the actors. “Through the gender training, the rehearsals and the awareness performances, I am starting to respect and collaborate with my mother and sisters in our home.”

Mr Doaemo expects to reach almost 70% of the population in the Lae District through a total of 168 performances over four months, although the group faces challenging circumstances.

Lae was declared a conflict zone last November when ten people were killed, public gatherings were restricted, and people were afraid to leave their homes. But the group improvises to get the public’s attention: “We played loud music to bring the crowd out anyway,” Mr. Doaemo laughed.

The Seeds Theatre Group was established in 1997 by Sam Solomon Sommi, a theatre professional and trainer who saw the artistic talent of youth in the Lae settlements and started to provide training in drama, dance and music.

By using traditional performing arts as a strategy for education, the Seeds Theatre Group utilises the potential of young unemployed women and men, and at the same time raises awareness on the causes and consequences of domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace and bullying in schools.