One of the great spin-offs from standing in for my Minister is that I get to witness and experience firsthand the diversity in cultural expression in dance and the performing arts in PNG. Events that even I don’t get invited to – but that’s the nature of the job.
In October last year I was most fortunate to stand in for the Minister for the TAFE Cultural Extravaganza on a Saturday morning at Ela Beach. If you are wondering where TAFE is, it is located at the former Ela Beach International Primary School (which has been relocated to Murray International (and now known as Ela Murray).
It was a dull day but the cultural performances lit up the latter half of the morning. People started to come into the college grounds attracted by the sounds of the kundu drums and conch shells and of course the melodious strains of the Bougainville bamboo band. Those sounds are unmistakably Papua New Guinean, no doubt about that!
I realised as the beauty of the cultural performances unfolded, how fortunate I am to be in this job and especially to be standing in for the Minister and more importantly to be part of this cultural extravaganza. Right then I realised there is no place I’d rather be than at this event with the TAFE students, their Principal and their lecturers as well as the relatives and spectators that have gathered.
This was the TAFE College’s third cultural extravaganza. Wholly organized by the Tourism and Hospitality students, the show was a great success and for me personally it was awesome to note that it was the female students who were running the show that day! I was most impressed to say the least. They took pride in what they did and were visibly supported by their mentoring Principal.
I was amazed at the number of cultural items and groups for this cultural extravaganza. I also watched the knife dance from the Mortlock Islands. Believe me, this was a first for me. A couple of the boys kept on dropping the knives and that was a little nerve-wracking but in the end they pulled it off – no scratches, no kidding.
Towards the end of the cultural extravaganza I began to think, it couldn’t get any better.
These are the types of events which even Papua New Guineans should witness and in doing so to be able to experience the cultural diversity. I am sure there are hundreds of traditional PNG dances waiting to find their way into the public domain in this country. Would one person be able to experience every single dance in one lifetime?…the truth is I don’t know. This is where cultural events such as this and the many festivals staged and hosted in provinces and districts would play a very significant role in bringing the many different dances to public display and PNG consciousness. Just imagine the diversity of cultural expressions and artistic creativity – in all their splendor and glory.
Here are a couple of dances from East New Britain which I was fortunate to witness. One of the things that is still not understood well is that some of the dances are tied in very closely with traditional spiritual and ritualistic practices. That is a unique element which begs the question, should these remain behind closed ‘doors’ or should we reveal them to the public ensuring that we also make public the etiquette and protocols that surround these cultural performances and dances.
In time I hope we will be able to hold on to these unique elements of PNG cultures. The decision is up to each cultural grouping. We are at the crossroads on many fronts and this is one of them…a very important one.
One of the features of this cultural extravaganza was the young people who were performing these dances. I think this is quite common now and an important feature which must be encouraged. I felt hopeful that Papua New Guineans at every age are taking their cultural dances and perforances very seriously and why not? Culture is organic…it lives on with every age perpetuated at every age by all who are able to do so.
Apart from the PNG dances and performances, a couple of groups contributed a couple of Polynesian dances. Here is the group that performed a Tongan dance – not bad actually.
I ended my representational duties as one of the lunch guests of the Principal and his colleagues and a member of their Board.
I thoroughly enjoyed the cultural performances and learnt a little more about the cultures of PNG. It was a Saturday morning well-spent.