A burst of gracefulness and colour took me by surprise as two Balinese girls swayed onto the entrance of the Hotel Melia Bali, Nusa Dua. It was so refreshing.
This is my fourth post on the regional conference on ethical tourism that took me to Bali, the tourism mecca of Indonesia.
After the meeting we were bus-sed back to our hotel to get ready for the evening’s programme. Then back to the Hotel Melia Bali for the evening’s programme at the neighbouring Museum Pasifika also in Nusa Dua.
Whilst waiting for our bus at the entrance and hotel foyer, Balinese dancers gracefully swayed to Balinese gamelan music.
I was not able to get a good picture close up of this gamelan orchestra albeit a smaller one unlike the one at the cultural evening, ‘Desa Kala Patra’ on Friday evening.
I wondered about the potential for these sorts of cultural performances at our hotels in Port Moresby in the evenings so guests can enjoy glimpses of our rich cultural heritage and diversity as well as the growing interest in more contemporary artistic endeavours in PNG especially among the younger generation.
Now that would be something. I think we may turn to more contemporary performances at hotels simply because of the logistics and fees perhaps. Anyway, it would a great way to showcase some of PNG’s rich talent.
This was a cultural interlude and what a beautiful way to start our Saturday evening programme. Again I forgot to ask what kind of a dance this was.
There are many types of Balinese dance. What we saw was one type of dance. The costumes and headdresses or tiaras are quite ornate. With the colorful costumes red seems quite prominent and am not sure if the colour red has some cultural or religious significance to the Balinese.
I enjoyed the performance although they were still dancing when we left for the Museum Pasifika.
I wondered whether we were going to witness another cultural performance or Balinese dance whilst in Bali as we were herded into two long lines in preparation for the short walk to the Museum Pasifika.
This is my third post on my brief visit to Bali for the Asia-Pacific regional meeting on Global Ethics in tourism.
We managed to make it to the cultural evening. Upon arrival at the festival we were whisked through to our seats before the event begun. Apparantly, this was no ordinary cultural evening. It was a culmination of several cultural events which you can read about in this article in the Jakarta Post.
This was the Opening of the 33rd Bali Art Festival with the theme ‘Desa, Kala, Patra’. We were so fortunate to be invited to this grand opening.
This was the explanation of the ‘Desa, Kala, Patra given by Mr Putu Wijaya, the Balinese playright of international renown at the inception of the Bali Art Festival a few years back:
“For the Balinese ‘Desa’ (space) is essential to indicate origins, links and directions. By tracing their space the Balinese discover their linkage to their homes, origins, ‘braya-pisaga-semeton’ (society, neighbors and family) and even with their guests. The space is also linked to ‘kala’ (time). Night and day, morning and afternoon, today and tomorrow can change, take form and make those links to time perfect. Finally ‘Patra’ (identity) also means situation and condition, instigating that space and time can be harmonized with what is taking place.”
“‘Desa-kala-patra’ is a value and at the same time, a universal approach. That it grows in the soul of the Balinese people, does not make it the sole property and right of the Balinese. Bali is only one of its choices, because this island is a meeting place for different races and ideologies from all over the world. ‘Desa-kala-patra’ comes to life not because it is discussed, taught, and made a doctrine, but because it is practiced. ‘Desa-kala-patra’ is like a formless soul that freely resides within the bodies of the Balinese without them being aware.”
After the President’s speech the concert began.
I am so glad we took the trouble to at least look culturallly appropriate, especially with the VIPs there and the President. This was a bonus and although I was not sitting too close to the stage I managed to take a few shots with my Nikon D90 which went with me wherever I went. I didn’t want to miss any great opportunities for taking nice shots.
What fascinated me was the attire. The men in long-sleeved batik shirts and the women in exquisite fabrics that adorned their beautiful figures – these were figure-hugging and very elegant. They had beautiful hair adornments and the men wore Balinese ‘turbans’ on their heads.
My limited Bahasa Indonesia captured some of the official speech by the President and others but not entirely – guess am out of practice. Nonetheless, the presence of the President at this festival was very important to everyone and especially the organizers. His presence no doubt gave the opening event a very high profile and to the planned cultural and artistic events for that festival period.
I was sitting too far away from the centre of action but managed to capture some of the beauty of the concert as it unfolded.
The setting was so apt. We found ourselves facing a temple which was appropriately decorated. A fitting backdrop to the performances that followed.
Group after group took to the stage and entertained the audience. I was in 7th heaven! This is the life, I thought to myself.
We were given more small boxes which contained fruit and traditional sweets as well as bottles of water so we did not go hungry during the concert which took several hours.
I really felt looked after.
The performances began with the unmistakable haunting sounds of the Balinese gamelan orchestra. These are instruments that resemble zylophones and there were the gongs.
I was fascinated with the dancing and the epic story that was related through dance. The colourful costumes, the dances and the atmosphere was sobering.
I couldn’t help wondering how we could showcase some of our stage plays written by PNG playrights such as Kasaipwalova, Tawali, Kaniku, et al and how we should stage these in the villages and communities througout PNG.
One thing for sure during this visit, we were very well taken care of. Balinese hospitality knows no bounds. What a gracious people. What a privilege indeed.
On our way back to our hotel, the Grand Bali Nusa Dua, I reflected on the cultural extravanganza just witnessed and I realised that the opening of the festival showcased the profound spirituality of the Balinese.
I did something different on New Year’s Day – 1st January, 2012. I walked the length of the Esplanade in Cairns, Australia where my family resides.
My first walk of the year you might say. Quite exhilarating.
It was a lovely sunny afternoon and dusk was approaching fast when I took the long walk past the marina, lovely lush green trees and lawns, people fishing and jogging and others just enjoying the peace of the 1st day of 2012.
I took photos along the way which I always do wherever I go because you never know what your camera can capture. The light is the big thing with taking photos – anytime, anywhere. So this walk was no exception.
I took in the sights and sounds of the seafront as I strolled along the cemented walkway. I guess my photos will remind me of those captive personal moments. It was a spur of the moment decision and I was glad I did make the decision to walk. Don’t do that in Port Moresby – a pity really but nevermind.
A walk is a great way to reflect and this being the first day of the new year, 2012, I thought about possible resolutions that I can adopt. I wanted to be as realistic about these resolutions and that is difficult to fathom sometimes because each day is different. Besides implementing the resolutions is something else. One has to be committed and really be honest about what is real and what is perceived in terms of setting the resolutions in the first place. Well, a reflective walk in my humble opinion is an excellent start.
I thought of the year that has just passed, 2011, and realised how fortunate I am to be able to fly to Cairns and spend time with my family and also to get some much needed relaxation.
That’s not to say that my corner of Port Moresby isn’t up to the task of being a relaxing place but sometimes a change of scene – to get away physically and go to another place is just the tonic one needs to recharge one’s batteries. Also looking back I acknowledge how much life has changed or is it I that has changed much? I think both but under different circumstances throughout the year 2011. One thing I was sure of and that was the 2012 is going to be a really great year on many fronts – I could feel it in my spirit.
We don’t realise that our lives, and we only have one, are so tied up in what we call work or our ‘day jobs’ that often times we forget that parts of us die a natural death everyday because we neglect those parts. We need to air them out every now and then starting with our minds.
What are these parts of us? These parts are the more spiritual aspects of our lives or us such as company, laughter, pleasure from walking, views of places we think we know but we don’t and so on. It is only when we stop to take in the views, the features that we miss that familiar things take on a totally different meaning – it’s like we are seeing them for the first time.
Take time to think about the people we live with, interact with, work with etc and what happens is that we suddenly see them in a different light – we suddenly find the parts of their lives we can connect with. This is that opportunity for realisation that no man/woman is an island. I promised myself to do this – to see each person I meet as a blessing and likewise.
I began to think about my family and the things I need to do to connect with them this year. Of course, as you and I know, somethings are easier said than done.
But without falling into a cliched existence one must make the effort to make things happen such as finding the parts of our lives that have fallen through the cracks, fish them out and dust them and give them a brand new lease on life so that we can focus on the progressive and add value to our own and others’ lives.
On my way back to the poolside and the families who were gathered there to celebrate the first day of 2012, I stopped by a sweets and icecream shop and shamelessly indulged my sweet tooth with some creamy delectable morsels.
There were others who stopped by this icecream oasis to indulge their sweet tooth too.
It was so peaceful and private to just sit there and enjoy something without gawking eyes, flies and dust.
I had tea and thought about growing up on my beautiful island home in Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. We used to have to clear the breakfast plates so fast on New Year’s day in the 1960s because we need to identify places in and outside the house to hide in as it would be ‘dui’ time when it’s high tide and the men would run into all the houses looking for women and girls and carry them kicking and screaming down to the gelegele (beach) then throw them into the swimming pool. This is a natural sea water pool near the jetty.
We also used to have all the cake, scones, buns and fresh bread we wanted on New Year’s day as we would have been baking on New Year’s Eve ensuring that we had everything baked before midnight.
At midnight, 12 sharp, the noise levels would be defeaning as people beat saucepans, drums and anything that could make the loudest noise to herald in the new year.
We would run down to the beach to light the ‘osiri’ (dried coconut leaves). Against the dark skyline, the lit and flaming osiri on the beaches of neighbouring islands and the mainland was a sight to behold. Am not sure if the lighting of the osiri is still practiced on New Year’s Eve annually now.
I had never had the misfortune (fortune) to be carried out kicking and screaming to be thrown into the pool. There were loads of laughter and fun when this happened and everyone always embellished their own experiences.
Looking back on those days, what a journey I’ve made – this is the 21st Century and I am in a foreign land and the place is very quiet. Almost forgotten ‘dui’ time.
I find so much pleasure in taking photos of the things I come across on my walks or trips to various place within and outside PNG. It helps me to remember the memorable moments in my life then later to sit and re-live the experiences when I feel like I need a pick me up. This is why I carry my camera everywhere I go even if I was just going somewhere close. I don’t want to miss a thing.
My pictures tell a story about one special moment or moments that make up that unique experience for me.
The children were still in the pool when I returned from my walk. I also ran into two people were looked really familiar – one of them was a school mate whom I have not seen since we left high school in Milne Bay – now that would be over 30 years!
After the formal opening of the Beyond Pacific Art Gallery we were treated to entertainment and a mumu feast.
A mumu is a method of cooking food underground not necessarily in an oven but in a hole in the ground on hot stones. This method of cooking is found throughout the Pacific.
In PNG, mumu (Tok Pisin) food is usually found at big feasts and singsings. It is convenient to cater for large groups of people this way without having to use hundreds of saucepans!
The mumu was cooked in a make-shift ovens comprising of two aluminium garbage bins. Talk about PNG or Pacific Island ingenuity! Joycelin said they searched high and low for something to cook the mumu in because of the rain as they were not sure if the grounds were going to be dry enough for the cooking process which usually takes several hours .
These bins provided the waterproof oven for the mumu. This was truly innovative, the food absolutely delicious. I believe that wherever we are in this world we would be able to obtain ‘PNG or Pacific Island food’ that is sweet potato, pumpkin and bak choi plus other delicious additions.
In any PNG or Pacific Island gathering there is always food (lots of food), dancing and singing. We were treated to Kiribati dancing which I think is gaining popularity around the world like other Pacific Island dances, albeit slowly. Usually these Kiribati bird dances are performed by a group but our young friend gave us a beautiful and graceful solo performance. Some of the most fascinating dances are those that imitate birds and other animals.
This meal was wonderfully, accompanied by PNG’s famous beer – SP (from PNG’s only South Pacific Brewery in Port Moresby) and some good Aussie wines.
Oh yes a little dancing but most just sitting, standing around, drinking, eating….
Although it was raining that evening we chatted, sang, joked and just had a wonderful time. I reckon it was one of the best birthdays I’ve celebrated anywhere.
We had to leave at a reasonable time to be able to wake up the next day and head out to the airport at 7.00am to catch the PX flight back to Port Moresby.
A great time was had by all. And yes, all good things come to an end but in a nice way and we look forward to visiting the Gallery again sometime soon.
On Saturday, 17th March, 2012, a number of relatives, friends and associates gathered to celebrate the opening of the first PNG Art Gallery, in Brisbane, Australia which also features artwork and handicrafts from PNG and the Pacific Islands. The Gallery is set in lush green surroundings at 23 Lather Road, Bellbowrie, Queensland and is about 20 minutes from the city of Brisbane.
I was privileged and honoured to be invited to open the Gallery owned by none other than our own iconic Joycelin Kauc Leahy who is also the Curator of Pacific Storms. In her Curatorial Statement for the 2011 Pacific Storms, she says, “The Pacific Storms Contemporary Art Exhibition explores the profound relationships that the people from these 27 states and territories have with their land and their environment. It examines some important aspects of land and culture, and the serious threat of destruction to these cultures…”
She goes on to state, “Dramatic climatic changes are the biggest threat to the indigenous peoples of the Pacific, who have contributed very little to the effects of climate change, yet are among its most hard-hit victims. Pacific Storms aims to give voice to the real concerns facing the Pacific Island countries and their people by integrating the message of Lusim Land (Lost Land) with contemporary visual, digital and performance arts that reflect the intangible heritage of the Pacific Islands.”
For Joycelin the creation of this Gallery has been a labour of love. The labour – her blood, sweat and tears and the love – her deep commitment and passion for art, her faith and her zest for service to others.
She is visionary and this can be seen with the choice of this beautiful and quaint location in this scenic corner of Queensland. She shared her passion with others who responded positively and in doing so contributed to a shared and rewarding journey for herself as well as her family and the many others she helped and empowered her along the way.
The rain was a small inconvenience as old friends met eachother and tried to catch up on all that they’ve missed in eachother’s lives over the years. We were there to support Joycelin and to celebrate with her and her family this momentous occasion and to share her happiness in the accomplishment of her mission.
I am delighted that we have a Papua New Guinean who has achieved much in promoting PNG arts and culture in Australia and the Pacific. Joycelin is not one to sit and expect others to make things happen for her. One of the most endearing features of our wonder woman Down Under is that she walks the talk!
I was in the presence of greatness as I listened intently to her frank and open yet gentle and friendly explanations on the various aspects of her journey as an artist and as a curator and now a proud gallery owner. What an awesome achiever, is our Morobean lass. She is a go-getter!
With Joycelin, what you see is what you get. That comes with years of learning, doing, helping and sharing her passion for art with others. As an artist herself she has conquered many mountains of discouragement and disappointment to reach her goals. But if I know Joycelin well, this is another beginning of the many exciting endeavours to come, blessing others wherever she turns her talents and attention to.
She lives and breathes all things art and artistic and glows as she relates the many exciting and life-changing situations and people she has encountered along the way who have blessed her with positive contributions that drew her closer to her goals. Joycelin is indeed a mobile compendium of PNG and Pacific Art and an encyclopedia of PNG and Pacific Islands’ arts and iconic artists, herself included.
In my brief remarks before declaring the Gallery officially open, I shared some observations which I think captures what Joycelin Leahy has achieved not for herself but for a country that is struggling to define itself. Its artworks and artists will lead the fray as it were providing many defining moments and this occasion was one of those moments without exception.
Firstly, I mentioned that PNG should be proud that one of her own has ventured into a somewhat familiar but new territory that is yet to appreciate the full potential of Papua New Guineans and what makes them tick. Through her passion, perseverance and pursuit of excellence she has succeeded. I think that sums up the key ingredients for success – the three ‘P’s: passion, perseverance and the pursuit of excellence.
Secondly, this Gallery is a manifestation of Joycelin’s artistic journey and meticulous nurturing of what she believes to be her destiny. One must acknowledge one’s artistic potential and those of others to achieve one’s dreams and aspirations because that is one’s own truth: the truth about who they are, and what they are about in this life.
Thirdly, I said that PNG women artists are not very well promoted in PNG as well as overseas. The ones that get recognized are usually because a non-Papua New Guinean has recognized their artistic talent and helps them to showcase that.
Women artists will always be in the shadows unless they push themselves forward and into the limelight, their achievements will remain in the kitchen, bedroom and living rooms of their homes never to see the light of day – their artistic accomplishments.
We need to recognize the struggles of these women and at the sametime draw on shining examples such as Joycelin Leahy – who is mother, father, artist, curator, trainer, mentor and many other roles – who become inevitably the role models of women artists wanting to accomplish their dreams through their art whether it’s painting, bilum weaving, handicrafts, sculpture, pottery, dance, music, poetry, photography and so on.
We need to embrace the artistic talents of our women in PNG before we can promote them overseas because we need to know how they feel about their art, we need to feel their passion and we need to empower them to share their skills and natural talent and in doing so to promote PNG as the rich tapestry of artistic expressions that she is.
Finally, at the government to government level, I drew particular attention to a comment made to me by a very wise lady at the Queensland Museum on Friday afternoon. She said, we need to look for and focus on our similarities rather than on our differences in what we do and in how we want to engage with eachother. Our artwork and art are spiritual expressions that will bind us and sustain our bilateral relationship at every level. It may carry a hint of a political statement but to me it was the wisest thing I have ever heard in terms of what the future holds for artists and the arts and it augurs well for all of us if we think that way.
It may be a good omen that we were gathered to celebrate the opening of a new Gallery to add to the consciousness of the existence and vibrancy of PNG and Pacific Island art. I decided to end it there as I looked into the brown, black and white faces of those who have gathered at Bellbowrie on this rainy afternoon to celebrate with Joycelin her tremendous achievement. Indeed, for in our shared love for art and artistic expressions we are one in spirit.
It was then that I also realised what a wonderful birthday celebration this has been for me, the rainy downpour above and the wet soggy ground beneath notwithstanding.
One of Joycelin’s beautiful watercolours titled “Basket Weavers of Suki” is featured in the All Nation’s Womens’ Group recently published book, ‘Artists, Cooks & Storytellers: Moments in Papua New Guinea’.
I share with my dear friend Joycelin this mantra, “A true artist is one who strives continuously, naturally with ease, and seamlessly to bring happiness to others, who grows with their experiences, shares in their empowerment, and takes great delight in the positive changes in their lives brought about by small selfless interventions.”
Looking back over the event on Saturday and the wonderful gathering of relatives, friends and associates afterwards, I could only think, “Well done Joycelin, you’ve done it again for PNG”!
There were many Christmas parties, lunches, dinners and get- togethers in the lead up to Christmas Day. The shops were filled with shoppers – relatives, friends, and colleagues all looking for that special gift. It is that time of the year when our minds turn to gift shopping, buying and giving. Most people will open their gifts on Christmas Day, 25th December, 2011 and celebrations continue well into Boxing Day, 26th December.
A big part of the shopping is for food that will make our celebration of Christmas unique. And talking about food shopping at this time, I treasure the freedom to be able to choose what makes a Christmas meal in my own home. There is no pressure to rush around for ham, turkey or whatever – can you imagine if millions of Papua New Guineans were searching for that ‘national’ Christmas meaty centrepiece for their Christmas meal. That will most certainly change our shopping habits for Christmas Day in Papua New Guinea. One could be eating fish on Christmas Day which we did – a succulent Red Emperor (from the pristine waters of Tufi), aibika from our very own back garden cooked in coconut cream, Highlands potatoes, tender lamb chops and Thai jasmine rice graced our Christmas table followed by home-made pawpaw pie (my late Mom’s recipe) – all cooked with heaps of TLC. Water, soft drinks and hot beverages followed. It was the family and fellowship that was the most important element. Earlier in the day Christmas breakfast was a family affair too.
Throughout the day as I watched one Christmas movie after another on the telly, I pondered over why we celebrate Christmas. I’ve attached this interesting link on the origins of Christmas wherein lies the origins of the Christian Christmas celebration. As a country colonised by the British and Germans and later administered by Australia, we have taken on whatever Christmas traditions they practiced – perhaps not all of the traditions though.
As a Christian, I thought about the gifts I have received for Christmas this year, and my thoughts naturally turned to the more significant gift. The birth of Jesus Christ our Saviour. When we have opened our presents and have enjoyed all the Christmas treats, in the final analysis – that one Christmas gift is the only one that remains because of the world of difference it makes in our lives when we believe. The birth of Christ brought hope and faith and so each Christmas the hope for a wonderful life in Christ.
I thought about the proclamation in Luke 1: 14, “You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at His birth” and from Isaiah 9:6, “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” A gentle reminder for 25th December.
I wish all my family, friends, colleagues and readers a wonderful Christmas Day. I trust that you all had a wonderful day with family and friends wherever you are.
At this point in time in Port Moresby with all the prevailing confusion caused by the political leadership tussle and no one piece of news gives us any consolation that a solution is nigh, one needs to reach out to the lovely things that make Papua New Guinea a beautiful country. Those lovely things are the real deal.
Yesterday with all that was being reported over the radio, the national dailies and in Facebook etc, I observed that most people in the downtown Port Moresby area and surrounds were busy going about their business.
It did occur to me that in times like this the lovely things about Papua New Guinea must come out. My thoughts turned to the hundreds of photos I’ve taken since my return from England and how it would be great to share these magical moments on this blog…
So here are some of the many images I’ve snapped of this beautiful country which should not be trashed and tarnished through the reckless and callous actions of a few.
My photoblog starts today sharing some more magic moments in PNG…
Sunset on the Tawala side – returning from Tawali Resort
The above photo was taken from a Driftwood Resort dinghy taking us on a day trip to Kwato, Doini and Samarai just after last year’s Canoe and Kundu Festival in Alotau.
In sum, regardless of the current ridiculous political wrangling and confusion that is and can be unsettling if you are in Port Moresby right now, there are things that can still make one smile. Those things are real and tangible within the heart of every peace-loving Papua New Guinean and those whose spirits have made the connection to the beauty of this country and its people.
We are all in some way connected through our smiles and the quiet confidence we exude in the way we have taken this most challenging and historic time in PNG’s political history in our stride.