Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Tufi Tattoos

Ramona at Kasiawa

Ramona at Kasiawa

When a Tufi girl is ready for marriage she might, for some weeks, enter the hibernating process of getting a facial tattoo. The tattooing is an old traditional practice that has faded away and disappeared in most communities, but there are some areas where the tradition lives on.

Ethel is proud of her tattoo

Ethel is proud of her tattoo

The girl stays in seclusion during the time of the application, which is made by a qualified tattooist – sometimes a relative; always a woman. First the pattern is drawn in black, and when the girls’ parents have expressed their appreciation the tattooist starts the actual process. Dulcie at Kafuaruru village and Levinia at Angorogho, two of the still active tattooists, use a modern needle instead of the bush needle that was tapped by a stick, which was the old way. The dyes today are also mixed with modern ingredients that give a stronger and more lasting colour. This way the tattoo has to be worked over only twice, instead of three or four times which was the rule before.Ethel from Kuruwe says: “Mine was made by a lady from Sefoa. It was my parents that decided, but they listened to me too, of course. Nowadays the girls decide much themselves, but only a few get them. My auntie from Angorogho made one last year on a girl from Mafuia – that’s the neighbour village.”

A hundred years ago tattooing was common all over Papua New Guinea. Most places it was only for the women. The method was basically the same everywhere, but the patterns and what areas would be marked varied between the different areas. Some had their whole bodies tattooed, starting with a section at a young age, then adding some every year, and the final needle applied around puberty. At Tufi it was the face and sometimes the neck, and some would – only for the husbands to view – have their thighs tattooed as well.

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You’ll find some more about the Tufi tattoos in my book Beautiful Tufi, and there’s a set of photos on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157622661762090/

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Categories: Book, PNG, Travel, Tufi | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Clay Pots of Wanigela

Ethel is the potter adding a decoration here

Ethel is the potter adding a decoration here

Clay pot lin-up at Ganjiga

First you take your fire wood and arrange it in a star-like manner so that it will be a solid resting place for your pot. When it’s there in place, you line it with some banana leaves and then start filling it up with vegetables. The ones that need the most time to get properly cooked, usually the taro, you place on the bottom. Then you add the water, and maybe some coconut milk. On top comes fish or meat, before you place taro or banana leaves as a cover on top. Now you only have to make sure that the fire keeps going.

Today most of the cooking in the Tufi villages, as well as everywhere else in Papua New Guinea, is done in aluminum pots, but for certain occasions – for a feast, or a special visit – you bring out the clay pots. All around the country there have been century- or millennia-old trading systems, where tribes with access to the best clay locations have distributed their pots in exchange for other goods, sometimes over impressive distances. Around Tufi the treasured clay is found at Wanigela, in a small area a couple of miles from the Collingwood Bay shore line, and

Daisily at Tumari puts on the 'lid'

Daisily at Tumari puts on the ‘lid’

here both the pot making and the trading is still very much alive.

While the Wanigela people bring their clay pots, the villagers from the Tufi fjords bring mats and dogs; the Maisin to the

south trade their tapa (bark) cloth, and the Cape Vogel tribes their shell work. For a big feast or ceremony, as the mourning meal at Ganjiga shown above, there will be a great number of clay pots lined up and looked after by the women, while the young men help out with shredding coconut and the elders sit and discuss clan matters.

Fish on top

My full series of pot making can be seen in the ‘Wanigela Clay Pot set’ set on Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157626541992236/

The ‘bible’ on this topic, “The Traditional Pottery of Papua New Guinea” is written by Patricia May and Margaret Tuckson.

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The Spectacular Head dresses

Dancing at Kwafurina

Dancing at Kwafurina

When the steady rhythm of the kundu drums sound and the dancers move around in lines and circles, finding the right steps to the songs, one can’t help being captured by their amazing head dresses. The expressively colourful feather arrangements light up the dancing ground; the cassowary plumes down the back sway to the beat; rooster feathers wave from the tops. It’s an explosion of colour and movement.

Much of the old style of the headdresses has been kept through the years but some changed have been introduced. New Guineans have never been afraid of picking up new ideas and inspiration from others and the decorations are also, to a large degree, individual expressions.

Roy chooses between a series of beautiful pieces

When Roy makes his head dress ready for a dance he brings out his little suitcase where he keeps his feathers carefully and neatly stacked. They are all strung up in rows of similar feathers – some are very old. He then finds his helmet-shaped frame, and start tying one row of feathers in front of the other. Maybe he will arrange it just like he did last time or maybe he will try a new combination – he’s got a lot to choose between.

Attaching to the frame

Attaching to the frame

This one wears Roy's signature

This one wears Roy’s signature

Roy has a liking for the blue and red feathers from the female Eclectus parrot, and he combines them with others from lories, lorikeets, kites, and the white cockatoo ones that have been cut to zig-zags. Then come the orange plumes of the Bird of Paradise, the big dusk of cassowary feathers in the back, and finally – since he belongs to a chieftain clan – the black rooster feathers. While some of his brothers stick to the more traditional styles, Roy always looks for an interesting new and attractive combination – he knows that it will be noticed.

A classical example from Kabuni

A classical example from Kabuni

This type of head dress is common, with local alterations, in most of Oro Province, and also down the coast to the area around Rabaraba, and they won’t disappear. Many of their songs and dances are important parts of the clans’ and families’ oral tradition, and for a dance only the traditional dress is appropriate. That means tapa cloth, shells and feathers, and they are worn with pride.

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About Beautiful Tufi

WTufi Papua New Guineaith this book I intend to show what life is like for the villagers of Tufi in Papua New Guinea.

Very little has been written about this area before, so having been impressed with both the people and the place I figured it was about time for a presentation. The people here are also quite representative for their country, living as they are in close contact with both the sea and the forests, and they are even ethnically a mix between the Melanesian and the Papuan groups. Traditional life is still dominating, but certainly not without influence and knowledge about the world around.

As with many other developing nations, much of the news that reaches the outside world about Papua New Guinea is of the negative kind, and the many misconceptions I have met with abroad has also triggered my inspiration to fill in some of the missing pieces.

During my first stays at Tufi I had learned that the area has a very dramatic and interesting history and a great wealth of natural treasures. Then there was the warmth and hospitality that I was met with, and all this made it natural to go back and experience more of what ‘beautiful Tufi’ has to offer.

The idea for the book developed slowly after my second visit to the area in 2006, and two years later I had started making serious preparations. In 2009 I again widened my range and made many important contacts – I learned that the villagers were positive to my coming back for a more substantial project.

Between August 2010 and March 2011 I spent more than six months around Tufi, and also ventured a bit further down the coast to Collingwood Bay for a few weeks. After many hours of story-telling in shelters all along this fascinating coastline; after long canoe rides and hikes through the forests; and after an endless number of wonderful experiences, I believe I have the material to give you an idea of what life at Tufi is like.

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Papua New Guinea on Flickr

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Colourful festivals; beautiful scenery; special wildlife; everyday situations – if you’d like to get an idea of what Papua New Guinea is like you should drop in to Flickr. Photos is the quick road to an impression. I have 800 some PNG photos there, and you can find thousands from other photographers (try Eric Lafforgue’s).

(If you prefer to see the back side of the country – it certainly has its problems – you can try to Google Steven Dupont’s photos.)

My Flickr sets include views and people

from Alotau – http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157623187183733/

Preparing for Canoe Festival races

Preparing for Canoe Festival races

From Fergusson Island – http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157625568385966/

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Gowma afternoon atmosphere

from Kokoda – http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157628129360265/

Clouds over the historic track

Clouds over the historic track

from below the surface – http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157625889479447/

Guardians of Garewa beach, Tufi

Guardians of Garewa beach, Tufi

from all around – http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157610401154634/

High five at Salamaua, Morobe

High five at Salamaua, Morobe

and from Tufi, of course – http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157610401154634/

Late afternoon fishing by Kasiawa

Late afternoon fishing by Kasiawa

Be my guest!

Categories: Book, PNG, Travel, Tufi | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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