Papua New Guinea Cultural Show History
1. Mt Hagen Show
The Mt Hagen Show annually staged in the month of August is Papua New Guinea’s largest cultural festivity. The show was started during the early 1960s when colonial administrators started administrating the primitive tribes in the highlands. During the pre-colonial and colonial era tribal fights between warring tribes and clans in the highlands was a normal part of cultures. Any disputes between individuals over land, women or pigs were always resolved on the battle fields through tribal fights. The colonial administrators found it difficult to resolve the tribal tensions so they came up with the idea of staging the cultural show to attract these warring tribes to compete in a much less hostile environment with their bows and arrows but not in real confrontations. Instead they were challenged to seek for the number one position in the show and thus win the respect of their warring tribes and clans. Each year every tribe in the highlands would congregate together and showcase their traditional dancing resembling mostly war-like confrontation with colourful hair dress made from bird of paradise flumes and other colourful bird feathers with rare facial paintings. The event was also staged to ensure different tribes meet annually and exchange marriages, pigs and other valuables.
Even after 50 years of the original show the original purposes of the show are still realised. The Mt Hagen Show today is still a competition, with tribal groups vying for sizeable cash prizes and of course the honour and glory that first prize at the “Hagen Show” brings to one’s tribe.
The Show attracts cultural groups from all over Papua New Guinea, even from coastal and islands regions of Papua New Guinea. Each year there is an estimated populace of 50,000 mainly flock in from the Highlands provinces including Lae and Madang where there are road links to the highlands region Hagen. In contrast, less than 300 overseas visitors attended the 2008 Show, so it is still definitely a “local” festival and not something put on for tourists. There are also agricultural and trade displays, health awareness programs, sideshow alley and all manner of other activities at the Show which make it the highlight of the annual calendar for the Highlands people. Tourists and locals with cameras are given special seats with the best view, and you will also have permission to enter the performance arena to take close-ups of the dancers.
2. Goroka Show History
The Goroka Show is another PNG cultural extravaganza started in the late 1950s in Goroka by the colonial administrators. The Eastern Highlands people unlike their other highlands cousins were calm and peace-loving people and they did not pose greater challenges for administration by colonial masters. Because of their very nature, Goroka and other parts of the Eastern Highlands were the first places for colonialism in the highlands region. Patrol Kiaps (Administrators) where stationed in all the districts throughout the province. Thus Goroka Show was founded by these Kiaps. Each one of them representing their district would build round houses typical of their districts in Goroka Show ground proudly displayed cultures of their districts. The kiaps would bring sing-sing groups from their areas showcasing their multiple cultures and traditions. It began as an entertainment weekend for everybody in the Province where prices where won through the staging of the competition to see which was the best organized and administered district.
It has remained that way and has become a national event in PNG's calendar. The Goroka Show attracts tourists from within PNG as well as from all over the world and it is a probably the most known tribal gathering and cultural event in Papua New Guinea. It is held every year close to the Independence Day (16th September) in the town of Goroka. About 100 tribes arrive to show their music, dance and culture. This festival started in the mid 1950s from the initiative of missionaries. In recent years it became an attractive tourist destination because it is one of a few opportunities to see the traditional tribal culture.
3. Morobe Show
Morobe Show was started on the 24th October 1959. According to Morobe Show website during the second world war, Lae and its environs were in a neglected and devastated state - the main economic activity being the collection and sale of war disposal equipment. It was not until the early 1950's that the expat population looked at expanding the small nucleus of agricultural activity in the environs of Lae. At this time a man named Eddie Ward was Aust Minister of Territories in Canberra and he refused to allow any land purchases. However at the change of Government a Mr. Percy Spender got the job and changed this policy. This action followed a few years later by the exservicemen credit scheme saw a significant increase in Agriculture activities throughout P.N.G. - Lae included. By the mid 1950's the mainland of P.N.G. had show societies in Madang, Goroka, Mt Hagen, Port Moresby and Wau. At this time Lae did not have a show society, however many planters and farmers did support the then Morobe Show Society whose headquarters and annual show were held in the town of Wau. By the late 1950's Lae had a very active group of Agriculturist who had formed an association called The Morobe District Planters and Farmers Association. The M.D.P.& F. association considered that the Lae area should he able to support an annual show of its own, but decided that a separate show society should he formed to stage the proposed annual show. To this end the committee requested their president, Mr. J. H. Jacobsen, to call a public meeting to form the Lae show society.
Today the Morobe Show not only showcases the agricultural aspect of the Morobe people but also the cultures and traditions of Morobe people and the other regions of PNG including Momase, Highlands, Niugini Islands and Papua.
4. National Mask Festival
The National Mask Festival was initially introduced in 1995 and is staged as an Annual National Event to promote the Mask Cultures of Papua New Guinea. “Masks” in the definition of the term are found all over the world in many different forms and pertain many different functions. The types or class that have to do with the representation of spirits are found in West Africa, South America and Melanesia. Of this category, the Melanesian genre specifically has to do with spirits—mostly ancestoral spirits. These types of masks which we now call the “tumbuan” in Tok Pisin are found in Melanesia. The National Mask Festival organised by the PNG Cultural Commission is an annual event usually stated in Rabaul. The festival is the main forum where Papua New Guinea’s mask culture is showcased by performers from all over the country where both common and rare masks are displayed. The three major genres of mask on display are the ancestor masks, spirit masks, and tumbuan masks. Ancestor masks are designed to resemble or represent humans and often have holes in the eyes as a distinguishing feature. Small masks can be worn on the head during dances or ceremonies while other are mounted in homes and men’s houses to represent ancestors. Spirit masks represent non-human beings and are often designed to be mounted on walls and gables to protect the occupants of a home. Tumbuans are also a type of spirit mask but are larger in size and designed to be worn over the head and shoulders, or the whole body, during performances of dances and mime that illustrate goings-on in the spirit world. There is no other occasion on PNG’s cultural calendar where such a wide range of masks can be seen in one place, along with the dances and dramas that they are associated with.