Alotau Hosted A Cultural Extravaganza

Most impressive!

Before 2010 is up I’d like to share some photos and enjoyable moments during the 7th Canoe and Kundu Festival in Alotau, the capital city of the Milne Bay Province.

Absolutely enjoyable to watch this cultural group...

I was so pleased to have made it because the last time I visited Alotau was in July 2004 before I left to take up a post in London, UK. Of course, this trip to Alotau was in my capacity as the head of the policy development, strategic coordination and monitoring and evaluation entity created last year. So it was part of the job to attend the Festival and what a kaleidescope of beautiful traditional dances and costumes. The cultural diversity blew me away! I was simply entranced!

Decorated kundu drums - a major accompaniment to traditional dancing and singing

I enjoyed the dances presented by many cultural groups who travelled many miles in some cases to get to the Festival. The Festival showcased the various cultures of the Milne Bay Province. Missing though were the traditional Kiriwina dancers from the Trobriand Islands. Hope they make it next year – they will no doubt add more colour to the already colourful dancing costumes and dances.

Quite unique traditional dance formation...beautiful

Being the 7th Canoe and Kundu Festival, people said it was bigger and better than in previous years. I guess like anything else, we learn and improve. So that’s how it was then.

However, I’d like to remember one of the key movers and shakers who is, if you like, the founding father of the Festival – the late John Wills Kaniku – RIP Uncle John. This Festival is his legacy. I think it would be a fitting tritbure to his memory to name one of the main events after his name or at least one of the trophies. I am so pleased that he spearheaded the cause and was the brainchild of this  Festival which is fast becoming a major cultural event in Milne Bay if not in PNG. I know that it will gradually become a major cultural event on the national cultural events calendar if not already.

The shell decoration on the canoe was stunning

The Festival was held from 5th – 7th November, 2010.

Here are some of the photos I took from the Festival. There was so much to take in and I was most impressed by the many different dances and costumes plus the traditional food exchanges at the Festival. Included are some shots from one of the canoe races.

Just grateful to have been there...

I have photos to show that it was a cultural extravaganza and one that I hope would be in the calendar of travellers heading towards the Pacific. The Festival is usually held in November – a great way to visit and pick up some really lovely exotic gifts for friends and family.

Children taking part in the food exchange - sagali. Our cultures live on in our children - most endearing.
A group of young traditional dancers - they hold the key to the survival of our cultural heritage
I had to battle some other photographers and the audience to take this was worth it!
Gorgeous traditional necklaces complete these women's traditional attire
The bagi and the grasskirt - quintessentially Milne Bay...
The magololo - the softer woven grasskirt made from sago leaves - also quintessentially Milne Bay especially in the Bay area. The making of the magololo is steeped in tradition...
Ladies in face paint - simple and elegant, and of course the disarming smiles - quintessentially Milne Bay, without a doubt!
The male headdress - I think this are made of cassowary feathers, and of course the betelnut stained teeth - betelnut chewing is one of the major characteristic of Milne Bay customs.
The kundu drum - a major accompaniment to traditional dancing throughout PNG. The top of the kundu is covered with lizard skin as seen in this photo.
This shell necklace is a popular item in traditional gear and can be worn by both males and females but mainly by males.
Traditional dancers with kundu drums, the men wearing shorter 'grasskirts'
This yellow thing looked like a shell but am not sure...
Men in body paint - after one of the canoe races
Shell decoration on one of the racing canoes at the Festival

It was a great Festival and I enjoyed it immendsely. I was able to witness once again diversity in action as PNG is one of the world’s most diverse societies – linguistically, culturally, artistically etc.

The town was the cleanest I have ever seen it, friendly and warm and the sun very hot but I am so looking forward to the 8th Canoe and Kundu Festival.

Author: islandmeri

Life is a journey which I enjoy. Here I share my passion for helping others, music, ideas, inspiring things, and interesting places and people. It's my cool hangout.

20 thoughts on “Alotau Hosted A Cultural Extravaganza”

  1. thank you for honoring john kaniku, the man who is to be praised for having kept the festival authentic. i wish i could be there. i came with a team on a sail boat a few years ago, folowing the epoi to dobu. i was lucky to paddle a epoi.

    during a dengue fever that glued me to my bed, i had time to review and recall friend of the past. john is definitly a big figure in my life, because of the values he held. i never managed to circulate the footage that i took to the world outside, and maybe because if you want to feel the spirit of milne bay, the magic of kula, you have to be there, and i definitly lack the business sense. i would make terrible kula deals.

    the most important factor for me is that the festival remains true to the spirit that gave birth to it. that doesn’t mean not profiting commercially from it, but that the profit making takes over the deep meaning behind it.


  2. Hi and congratulations you did an excellent job.As a Milne Bay girl am so proud to see that our culture is being relaid to the ones who cannot make it to the festival to see for themselves the events that took place back then.


  3. Fantastic blog .. and wonderful representation of our beautiful province. Kagutoki Sinabwana. Would you have anything else on specific milne bay designs if any.I’m looking into compliling traditional designs from the region but at this stage i haven’t progressed much. hope you can help if not guess it’s reason enough to go back home.
    Well done and keep up this fantastic blog.

  4. Thank you so much for this well written and informative post. Our yacht the Star Dancer is now based in Milne Bay and one of the elements that I want to develop on our cruises is a cultural component. Highlighting the Canoe festival in our marketing programs will be a great start to getting divers to think about the cultural side of things as well.

    1. Hi Larry,

      Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I have seen the Star Dancer anchored off the shore near Driftwood Resort when I visited in mid- March. It is am impressive yacht. I wish you the best in developing the cultural component of your cruises. The local people know best what they want to showcase so consulting with them would be a step in the right direction. I am sure they too would want to be part of your marketing strategy through their own networks via relatives and friends.


  5. Thank you, Island Meri. What awsesome and diverse culture we have which graciously blends into our simple way life. It sure proves a point that its linguistically, culturally and artistically rich and diverse.

  6. Thanks Mari..I enjoyed the posts..Just to let you know I have saved some of the pictures to upload in my blog with you being acknowledge..

    My blog is for promotional purposes only and not for profit.

    Eauwedo paana eda eanua wasadi u heatamai..


    1. Hi Haron,

      Thank you for your kind words and compliments on this post. Thank you for visiting my blog. I visited your blog and think it is really awesome. The more we write about the many beautiful and wonderful aspects of our culture, our art and environment the more we are consciously or unconsciously promoting tourism in PNG. Well done! There should be more of us around.


  7. Mari, thank you for sharing the extravaganza of the Canoe & Kundu Festival. It’s always great to see the beautiful costumes and customs still in use. Your photos brings those of us that are not there closer to home. Eawedo…

    1. Hi Cous,

      Thank you for your compliments and for visiting my blog. Yes, it is always so endearing and I am filled with pride when I discover new cultural groups and dances from Milne Bay. You are right the costumes are beautiful and authentic – that is what we need to preserve, protect and promote. Hope you visit again.


      1. Thank you Lionel for your compliment on this post and thank you for visiting my blog. Hope you will visit again.


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