A Cultural Saturday At TAFE, Port Moresby

The New Ireland TAFE students took to the stage. Stunning in yellow their costumes brought 'rays of sunshine' to the dull Saturday morning event.

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).

Misima TAFE Students took to the stage. Simple and elegant! Ateuowa nabian! Tuna hot!

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.

Bougainville dance - love the pink and white combo of the costume.

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.

The Bougainvile Bamboo Band provided music for the Bougainville dance. The sounds of the bamboo band were sensational as always.

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.

A Mortlock Islands knife dance....first time to see this.

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.

The Mekeo dancing group - their traditional headresses were spectacular.

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.

The guy kneeling down is 'whipped' across on his arm. They are supposed to experience no pain at all. Absolutely amazing! You could say that this is akin to poking nails and sharp things through the tongue as in India and other parts of the world.

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.

The East New Britain group. They were the last group to perform. Again the costumes are different and quite unique leg/feet markings.Getting ready to perform their dance.

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.

The Pacific connection or more specifically the Tongan connection!

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.

Author: IslandMeri

I am based in Port Moresby, the capital city of Papua New Guinea. The purpose of this blog is to share my magic moments in Papua New Guinea, elsewhere in the Pacific and the world. I have many creative pursuits - singing, songwriting, amateur photography and blogging.

11 thoughts on “A Cultural Saturday At TAFE, Port Moresby”

  1. Hi IslandMeri!

    Me again. What a wonderful blog-I love the colours and zest for life exhibited in the dances. So interesting to learn about the cultural aspects of PNG. Thank you for sharing the experience. I spent time with the remote Wai Wai tribe of Guyana some years ago and their dances and costumes were always entrancing.
    Anna:-)

    1. Hi Island Meri,

      I didnt know you have very good photograph skills. I admire your photographs.

      By the I love Alotau, and I if have to choose for my retirement, it would be Alotau.

      Keep up the fantastic job.

      1. Hey Tadi Davida,

        Yes, I surprised myself too with this hidden talent that is just beginning and thank you for admiring the pics. Yes, Alotau is the place and I hope you get to visit this lovely seaside provincial capital one day.

        Thanks for the encouragment.

        Best,
        IslandMeri

    2. Hi Anna,

      Thank you for visiting and the article on the cultural event I wrote about. I am still discovering PNG and am glad to share my experiences as I go along. Traditional costumes are indeed entrancing because of the colours and the simple technology or methods used to create such awesome costumes.

      Regards,
      IslandMeri

  2. Nice article … thanks for posting it. Great to see so many cultural elements kept alive in the new generation.

    1. Hi Walt,

      Thanks for visiting and for your compliments. Yes, the culture is kept alive but its a struggle too nowadays with so much of other cultural expressions around. Nonetheless the new generation seem keen to embrace and preserve PNG culture as demonstrated at the TAFE cultural event.

      Have a great week.

      Best,
      IslandMeri

    1. Hi Peter,

      Thanks for visiting my blog. Am glad you’ve enjoyed the post. My magic moments are mainly of cultural and artistic events and products and of course food and journeys.

      Have a great week.

      IslandMeri

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