The Goroka Show [3]

28 09 2010

More amazing pictures from the Goroka Show

Jumping Men of Enga

Smile for the Camera (Solomon Islands Girl)

Little Boy-Man Feigns Attack

The obligatory arty shot (wish I'd taken a few more actually)

Colourful Child

Chimbu Man (I think)

Madang Singsing Group


The Goroka Show [b]

22 09 2010

Mobile Totem Poles

Some of the groups had enormous poles or boards strapped to their backs, which they carried around all day. The feathers on top of the poles are so designed that they flit symmetrically back and forth on springs made from leaves in time to the dancing.



... and the beast (and a mud man)

The stunning girl above can only have been about 12 or something. She was dancing nonchalantly at the head of her group whilst chewing gum and blowing bubbles.

More lovelies

Young Mt. Hagen man

The 2nd day was much busier – more tourists, more singsing groups – and louder. The kundu drumming of many groups intermingled with male tribal chanting and higher-pitched female singing.

Then there were pipe players from the Solomon Islands and other island groups with guitars and ukuleles.

Island Music

Enga Man

Woman bedecked in Kina shells

In pre-contact PNG, the kina shell used to carry high value, especially in the Highlands where knowledge of the coast and sea was absent. Their rarety led to shells of all kinds being highly prized and incorporated into traditional costumes, and eventually leading to PNG’s unit of currency being named the Kina.

The Goroka Show [i]

21 09 2010

Goroka is a major town in Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea, with a history of gold-mining, coffee plantations, and missionaries.

Shy Eyes

The Show began in 1957 for entertainment purposes, an excuse to dress up and show off for the local communities. It was originally organised by Australian Kiaps – multi-functional administrative officers posted to remote locations.

The show’s popularity grew along with the range and diversity of performing singsing groups. Now it’s a major cultural event and draws tourists (with their bloody enormous camera lenses) from all over the world.

This celebration really is an all-out assault on the senses (apart from maybe the nasal one).

The Asaro Mud Men Cometh (with weighty helmets)

Friday: there was no big hype or build-up. The performers simply began parading slowly into the arena. The Asaro Mud Men were one of the first groups. They are legendary in part because they are so different to all the other groups.

Pretty soon, there were too many groups to keep up with, and there didn’t seem to be any logic as to where they were placed, so you just had to keep flitting from one side to the other in order not to miss any…

Enga Tribeswomen

One of the excellent things about the singsing groups, apart from the amazing costumes, decorations and rhythms, is how they encompass all generations and genders. No cherry-picking the young ‘good-looking’ ones here as you’ll see (although I accidentally cherry-picked a few oops!) – a refreshing change from our Western obsession with young slappers did I say slappers I meant attractive people.

Fun-Time Dudes!

On the down-side, I hate to think how many wonderful birds of paradise, sicklebills, and riflebirds were sacrificed for our pleasure. Feathers are handed down the generations, but still… didn’t bother some tourists who bought bunches of feathers from market traders. How they’ll get them past customs I have no idea.

Friday was a nice day to be there because there weren’t too many tourists and it was easy to mingle among the groups. Saturday was a different matter.

You can't beat a good smile

It was hot, but luckily I’d covered up having got burnt through the window of the bus on the way up. THROUGH THE BLOODY WINDOW! Actually the window was non-existent, having been previously smashed by raskals haha!

From the Grandstand on Friday

A thoroughly enjoyable day that gave one a real appreciation for the pride, power, and passion of Papua New Guineans (the three ‘P’s)

A Shading Kiddly

Official Opening

8 08 2010

The day after the welcoming, we were treated to an official opening ceremony.

The Preacher Espousing

There were a frankly ridiculous number of speeches of prayers, thanks and good-will, and all the while we were sat on a bench without shade…

Music & Dancing

Then at last, some entertainment

The little one at the back

Each of us then received a bilum (traditional bag)

Receiving a bilum

Finally, a spirited singsing group performed throughout the night until dawn

Massively impressive headwear

Dawn, earth churned up by dancing feet

I can’t take credit for the final 3 photos, they are Vojta’s

Kotet Welcome

7 08 2010

From Yawan, 1700 m above sea level, we made a half hour walk to Kotet, the village where our gang was to stay a few nights. The path, curving round the mountain side, provided some excellent vistas en route. However, the sun was surprisingly strong and my pasty limbs suffered as a result.

Walk to Kotet

It was evident that the villagers had planned a proper welcome and, as we’d caught them a little off guard, we had to wait a bit until they were ready to receive us…

A 'gate', but not the 'gate'

A makeshift ‘gate’ had been erected, adorned with cut flowers and boarded up with banana leaves. When ready, the leaves were cast aside and we were welcomed in, each receiving a garland of orange flowers, and a singsing group sang backed by kundu drums as we processed inside.

Taim bilong singsing

Singsinger (and future caterpillar assistant)

Nice hat

Binatang = Insects

Finally, we were seated on a bench and speeches were made by Tonsep (village leader), Vojta (BRC bossman), and Markus (BRC team leader).

The Gang (minus Vojta who took photo)

Then, although uninvited, the village Lutheran preacher stood up and extended a welcome to us, albeit in his own rather shouty preachy style, so it felt more like being scolded by teacher!

Wanang [ii] – Singsing Taim

26 05 2010

I got to bed about 4:30am after the village men decided to haveĀ  an impromptu singsing – they were in high spirits assisted by a low tolerance to alcohol. The sight of village head honcho, Filip, ripping open a box of white wine to get at the dregs was hilarious! A singsing normally involves traditional dress, kundu drums (like a horizontally held bongo), and tribal singing. This was merely a prelude, though, the official singsing was due to begin the following midnight.

Filip being interviewed by George & Toby

To document the carryings on, we had a cameraman (Toby) from the Smithsonian Institute, US. His remit was to put together a short film to present to the corporate sponsor (Swire Steamships) after the opening. Also above is George Weiblen, professor of Botany at the University of Minnesota, and long-term collaborator with BRC and Wanang Conservation.

Wanang from the river/bathing area

There are no bathrooms in Wanang. One must get in the river to wash, generally under the gaze of hundreds (or tens) of villagers. You can see the new school classrooms on the left.

Bridget playing Ludo with the police!

We had a day to kill before festivities truly began. As ceremonies have historically been marred by drunken outsiders, we had hired two policemen (seated on the veranda) from Madang as a deterrent. One was packing a piece! Here, Bridget, a student of George’s, introduces them to the delights of Ludo.

After chewing betel nut at Raymond's

I was invited to Raymond’s house to take photos of him & his family. Once there, Bridget and I tried the great PNG pastime – chewing the betel nut. Not strictly a nut, it is the seed of the Areca Palm, and, when mixed with lime and a bean-like member of the pepper family (daka), is a mild narcotic.

Sleeping dog interlude

First you chew the nut, the alkaloids of which cause you to salivate like mad. You must spit out the excess saliva before dipping the daka into the lime and biting off the end. The chemical reaction turns the mixture red and provides a mild high. I must admit, I felt like disco dancing afterwards. I also got a stomach ache from accidentally swallowing some.

Singsing begins

The singsing actually began at 7:30 in the evening and ended at dawn (6:00) the next morning – not a bad effort!

Singsing man

A good, well-behaved crowd encircled the performers as they danced around a central oil-lamp in many varied arcs and directions. The kundu drums and singing rang out loud and long into the starry night. I crashed rather early for an intermittent, but not at all unpleasant, sleep.