During the Canoe and Kundu Festival in Alotau last year, I was awestruck, that’s an understatement, by the colour and the cultural diversity on show. I saw this headdress and decided to take a shot of it. I should have stayed there and asked the dancers about the ornate headdress. I was probably most fortunate because the Rabaraba cultural group had just finished dancing and were taking a rest. The headdress was made out of so many different kinds of feathers. I wondered how many different kinds of feathers were used for this colourful crown.
I was so glad I was able to take this shot although the dancer was posing for my camera. As a local tourist I observed that the ‘posing for cameras’ takes away some of the authenticity of men getting ready for a dance or big cultural event which more often than not entailed some ritual exclusive of womenfolk. My camera bridged that gap I suppose. Anyway, when he had the tusk on it completed the traditional ensemble.
As a Papua New Guinean, I know that our culture is an intrinsic part of our environment and vice versa, our environment is an intrinsic part of our culture. Just by looking at this headdress, one realises that there is a very deep connection between a Papua New Guinean’s culture and environment. The use of the feathers and other bilas from their environment. Anyone involved in the development of this country must never try to separate these two. The minute that happens, whether consciously or unconsciously, we become spectators to everything that’s happening around us, we lose control and in a way we become peoples without an identity. Let’s not allow that to happen now or ever.
You can see from the photo above that the dancers are wearing several kinds of headdresses. There must be a reason for these differences. I am not going to hazard a guess without some serious research. The kundu drum here is less ornate then the ones used by other cultural groups, for example, the Goodenough Island dancers. Perhaps the ornate headdresses (big and small) compensate for the plain looking kundu drum. Looks like it took a lot of hours and feathers to make each of the headdresses.
These dancers are from Rabaraba, a sub-district of the Milne Bay Province. They also have their own language. When I was growing up we referred to people who came from Rabaraba and Wedau-speaking area as people from the ‘north coast’ of Milne Bay. I went to Cameron High School (Alotau) with some students from the ‘north coast’ many many moons ago. Yeah, this brings memories of high school days in Milne Bay.