Saturday, January 10, 2009

Eastern Highlands Province

The EHP or more particularly for me was Goroka and its accompanying festival. I flew in, checked out the many, many Sing-sing Groups and then flew out. I had a tight schedule and during this trip I had visited the very South Eastern corner of PNG, followed by a journey to Rabaul via Buka and it was at the end of this journey that I took in the splendour of the Goroka Festival.

It is simply an awesome spectacle; imagine dozens and dozens of Highlanders in traditional tribal bilas and performing dances of a variety of meanings. Most of the performances were based on some of the dances that they would perform when going into battle with other clans yet some of the performances were based on finding a partner whether that be for loving or for cooking… and of course there was the snake dance.

My personal favourite group was the group of ladies from Enga who stood in a long line rhythmically swaying their grass skirts by a gentle bend of their knees, while beating out a tempo on small kundu drums. Upon their heads was a wig of human hair decorated with small ferns, and they wore a light coating of light brown earth on their faces, shoulders and breasts. A band of black paint from ear to ear masked their eyes and added to the seriousness of their expression. Quite hypnotic.

My other highlights were the crew from Goroka town itself and their traditional costume which was bilum made and in the colours and designs of the PNG National Flag, very patriotic. I liked the lads from Morobe who performed very energetically and sexually while singing songs about their women getting the dinner ready. The snake dance guys were really cool too, underneath a huge stocking, filled and painted to look like a long snake, the men would dance and circulate in and around the rest of the crowd, with the tallest man leading the way and slowly getting smaller and younger until the last few performers holding onto the tail end of the snake were just little tackers enjoying their day out in the sun.

The lads all looked like they were having a ball.

And then the performers all left the field and mingled with the crowds outside, and this was a sign for the afternoon rain to start and this was a second sign for the crowd outside to start hurling bricks and large rocks over the fence and into the throng of people all trying to get out of the rain. After a large rock landed in the clump of bamboo I was hiding under for rain protection, I thought it was best to move further away from the Rock Concert.

But I survived and managed to escape down to the centre of town, got a beer from the Bird of Paradise and then bought some crafts from the street sellers outside, and got followed by more craftsmen on the way to the Airport to the waiting Dash-8 and journey back to Moresby.


Lucky-1 said...

I love looking at your photos. More so the faces of the people, they can say so much.

Steve Bennett said...

Thanks Lucky. One day when I back down South, I'll bring my collection of Goroka shots so you can have a slide show of what is an amazing spectacle of people as art.