A mudman approaches me, his face a fearsome smile with teeth pointing in all directions and his arrow aiming straight for my chest; the feathers from the headdress of a Morobe warrior whip my face as he tumbles by; from the bright, red face of a Chimbu woman I am greeted with a look that could kill, before she dances on with rolling hips. The sound of drums and hundreds of voices fill the air while shells, dusks of grass and bird feathers whirl by in a cascade of colour. I’m at the Morobe Cultural Show in Lae, Papua New Guinea…..
This was back in 2006, when I had timed my Lae visit for the big annual sing-sing. These big gatherings in Papua New Guinea, whether in Mount Hagen, Goroka, Moresby, Lae or Alotau, must be the ultimate places to see and indulge in tribal traditions and pride, to get absorbed into the music, the dancing and the colours.
A great thing is that the performances that are put on represent a living culture. The songs and dances are important pieces in the oral historic tradition that keep tribes, clans and villages together, and when I have visited Tufi I have stumbled upon several small and local events.
The Morobe show was the first big one I got to see, and what a spectacle. Bringing a camera to an event like this is a real challenge – you just want to keep snapping continuosly. Here I have dug out some photos and a film clip to give you an idea.
The top paragraph here is the beginning of a text that I wrote for my old travel story web page. A pdf of the full story is here, and below that a link to the ‘Under a Big Sky’ site:
Festival of sound and colour