|We are surrounded by native tribal people. Men, women and children are busy applying the last touch of paint to their bodies or faces, attaching a few remaining bits to the outfit. The air is bursting with excitement, and it's so deliciously contagious! The chanting starts gradually, and before we know it we are in the middle of one of the last genuine and most spectacular tribal event in the world.
Overcoming differences, Papuans who would usually only meet in aggressive circumstances get together here for a two-day singing and dancing orgy. Mount Hagen's annual Cultural Show, known here as the "Sing Sing", attracts thousands of local visitors but only about a hundred fortunate foreigners each year.
|The dress code varies from traditional tribal costumes to original modern versions. Each tribe has its own theme and colors and anything goes: Mud, vegetation, seeds, seashells, human hair, animal skins and bones. We even spot a margarine packet, a scarce novelty around here, as part of a head dress. However, the most striking and by far dominant part of the ceremonial pieces is the vast quantities of exquisitely beautiful and rare feathers. The results are outstanding!
|We are travelling with three children: Yann 16 is in charge of the filming, Liad 7 has a little digital camera and Aury 3 is super glued to his mummy. At first they are intimidated. As well as the fierce looks of some of these disguises we are attracting a great deal of attention with our white skin and soft hair. Some of the local kids have never seen a white person before and their reactions range from fear and curiosity by the youngest to wonder and admiration as the age increases.
Their smiles reveal bright red betel nut coated teeth and gums. The daring, usually women, come close and touch the children tenderly, sensitive to the slightest sign of unease on the part of the children. While Papuans can be aggressive with one another, harming a tourist is unthinkable. We feel extremely safe!
|There was a professionally printed program which bares no resemblance to what actually takes place on the field. At some point early in the proceedings a fully equipped army appears,and it was at this point that 7 year old Liad casually asks, "Are they going to kill us or what?" I reassured him that they were not. However, after standing under a blazing sun listening to an unintelligible speech that went on for over an hour I wistfully wondered if that might not be a kinder option. At the same time, we noted that the hundreds of painted tribesmen seated around the field were slowly losing their initial enthusiasm alongside their melting body and face paint.
|The show has officially started. With sheer joy we examine the meeting between ancient and modern the unexpected and the incongruous. We are submerged in the extraordinary and it's divine! Rhythmic chanting, dancing, excitement is building up, insisting shrill notes of drums plastic whistles and an empty coca-cola tin, play together in harmony. The performers love having their picture taken, and the children who were at first bewildered by the action, soon relax and start participating.
|We are constantly alert and have our wits about us because standing still there are times we are in great danger of being mowed down by a blue and red painted army of marching men who show no signs of slowing down or diverting around us. To the children's delight we are ambushed by a group of painted skeleton men and children who are also in regular conflict with a wolf-like creature covered from head to toe in local fauna and flora. The Mud men, completely covered with clay with monster-like mud fashioned helmets, carry and demonstrate their assorted weaponry.
|This triggers an alarmed response from 3-year-old Aury who was in total hysteria by the time three of them walked straight up to us trying to reassure him by removing their helmets revealing smiling red mouthed faces. The dead body group is made up of mournful widows, their bodies painted all in white and heads covered with black billums. The children become concerned by a sleeping child who represents a dead body and is transported in a highly decorated stretcher. A dancer wearing nothing but a very minimal pouch covering his privates casually sticks his hand in and pulls out his mobile phone and a wad of cash!
THERE'S MUCH MORE TO PAPUA, NEW GUINEA:
|For the exploratory type, Papua New Guinea is full of astonishing discoveries, adventure and wonder: Lost cultures, tropical jungles, mangrove, swamps with crocodiles! Trekking remote jungle tracks, volcanoes, cruising the Sepik river, wave surfing, white-water rafting, bird watching, arts and crafts and then there is the DIVING! Visiting PNG and not diving is like taking a trip to Nepal and missing the mountains.
The region, known as the coral triangle, is boarded by the Salmon islands, Papua New Guinea, East Indonesia and the Southern Philippines and is home to 75% of the world's coral species in an area that covers 2% of the world's oceans. In other words, PNG is located in the bull's eye of the highest tropical fish and coral diversity in the world! It's a photographer's paradise: clear and warm waters (26°c to 30°c), barrier reefs, drop-offs, coral gardens, patch and fringing reefs, coral atolls and hundreds of wrecks. Diving can be land-based or an interesting option is boarding a diving live-aboard for a week or more and be carried away to the most remote untouched and beautiful jewels of our planet!
SPECIAL NOTE: This year's Mt Hagen Sing Sing will take place August 11 - 12, 2012. In 2013, the show will move back to the third weekend in August.
||TOP: Feathers are the most prominent and impressive piece of decoration here. Papua New Guinea has more than 700 species of birds including 38 of the 43 species of the bird of paradise. The number of precious birds that were and still are sacrificed for this impressive display is disturbing and can't be ignored.
CREDIT BIRD PHOTO: CreativeCommons - DougJanson
CENTER:The Betel nut is the seed of the Areca palm and is chewed with coral lime and a mustard stick. These three combined together are a mild stimulant, causing a mild hot sensation in the body and slightly heightened alertness. This blend is bright red and is spat out when done with. Unfortunately this mixture is extremely abrasive and carcinogenic. Many red smiles, including very young children's, expose sets of badly damaged teeth.
BOTTOM: The string bag is called a billum. I cannot rate too highly the attraction of the Papuan billum. Before I ever travelled to Papua New Guinea I found many references to the famous string bags in a guide book. So, my first sighting of an array of multicolored billums, all displayed in their stringy beauty was an exciting moment. They are Papuan purses, backpacks, market sacks and carry-anythings.
GETTING ACQUAINTED WITH THE PAPUANS::
|Population: 4.5 million and are mainly of Melanesian ancestry. Over 800 languages are spoken throughout Papua New Guinea. The official languages are English, the Neo-Melanesian Pidgin and Hiri Moto. Many words originate from Dutch German, Australian and British colonial days. Terms only have one tense (they don't change for past present or future). A few words and phrases will be listed below.
A few words in Pidgin English (Tok Pisin):
Please = Plis
Sorry = Sori
Broken/Not good/Sick = Bagarap
Sister/Brother = Sista/Brata
Sit down = Sindaun
Stand up = Sanap
You = Yu
Me = Mi
Him/her/it/that = Em
And a few phrases:
"What is your name?" = Wanem nem bilong yu?
"My name is Sarah" = Nem bilong mi Sarah.
"Who are you?" = Yu whosait?
"Thank you very much" = Tenk yu tru!
"No thank you" = Sori, nogat.
"How are you?" = Yu orait?
"I'd like one please." = Mi laikim wanpela plis.
"That is/was bad!" = Em no goot
SOME USEFUL FACTS AND ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
The land and sea area of Papua New Guinea are within the tropics and cover 2.2 million square kilometres (870,000 sq. miles).
The country is rich with natural resources and obtains much of its revenue from Copper, copra, timber, coffee, tea and cocoa.
Temperature: 22°c - 32°c
Climate: Dry season is from May to October followed by the wet season, November to April.
Tax: A 10% Goods and Service Tax (GST) is usually included in the advertised price.
Tipping: Tipping is not expected and not a common practice in PNG.
Roads: Vehicles are right hand drive, and are driven on the left side of the road.
Electricity: The national power supply is 240 Volts, 50 Hz. Pin type 1:/ \
|Map / CREDIIT:Wikipedia
Air Niugini / CREDIT: Wikipedia - JialianGao
AIR NEW GUINEA (AIR NIUGINI) : http://www.airniugini.com.pg/
International flights from: Australia (Brisbane, Cairns, Sydney) / Frankfurt / Hong Kong / LosAngeles / Manila / Singapore / Tokyo
PHOTO CREDITS: Tally, Yann and Liad Pozzoli / Wikipedia as noted.