One of the joys of growing up in PNG is to the big sing sings that happen yearly or even the colourful church activities. I vividly remember Independence Day and the host of color from all part of the country. From the majestic plums drifting on the head pieces of the mighty men and women of the highlands, electrifying rhythmic chants and drums from the New Guinea islands, carvings and dances that depict mystical stories of the momase people and the spectacular nautical innovations of the tribes from the southern region.
So things are not the same, we have lost some of our old ways and we are sometimes accused of not honoring our culture. But we have been progressive and as a result, we have forged an identity that resonates a nation of many tongues. From Patti Doi and Betty Toea’s music booming in PMVs that are owned by Highlanders, colorful fabrics that depict tapa patterns from the Orokaiva worn by our sisters and mothers, bilums from the highlands carrying our precious love ones, delicacies rich in nutrients that was only available in the rivers, islands and highlands are now available to everyone.
Our culture indeed transcends our way of life but with the absence of political and policy direction, this resource has been underutilized and in some tragic instances, stolen, abused and lost. So the question has to be asked, is it worth investing our resources to protect, promote and preserve our culture and heritage? Apart from nostalgic and patriotic excitement, is it worth it? Absolutely.
It separates us from the rest of the world, it provides us the unique opportunity to help humanity from fighting diseases to resolving conflicts, and more importantly, to empower our people to move away from poverty. Indeed for many years, economic, industry and investment planners have not looked at the possibility of the culture, or to be more generic, the creative industry, as a tool for growth.
A few entities have been burning the torch for this sector. From the tireless efforts of the National Cultural Commission in preserving and promoting our culture here and abroad, super artists Jeffery and his brother Mairi Feeger blowing the international scene by storm, legendary musos Auirikeke, Ben Hakalitz, Telek and the darling of the garment industry, Florence Bilum Lady Jauke are all making major inroads internationally. But guys, this is only a speck of what’s in our country. Take some time and wonder in and out of the craft markets, church activities, clubs, galleries and even the bus stops, you’ll see the talent of our people.
But tragically like anything when it comes to money, those that want to make it ride on the talented and end up sucking them dry. From paying them merely nothing for the creativity they’ve done, pirating designs and music and outright theft. Many of our people in the creative industry are dying without knowing there rights. They live in a cage that their employees, agents and promoters do n’t tell them what that they are entitled to. From song writers, performers, sound engineers, artisans, dance troopes, cultural groups, weavers, carvers, traditional medicinal owners and many others are been denied of their wealth.
They need to usurp these rights so that they may be rewarded of their creativity and heritage. These rights will ensure users are able to pay them fees so that they may feed and clothe their children and more importantly, continue creating their products or preserving culture. Whether intellectual property and traditional knowledge protection, our people need to move into this area so that their rights are protected and they are able to utilize it for wealth creation in the market place.
So next time when you purchase a pirated CD, Made In China crap flogging it off as a PNG design, bullshit food that’s not from our land or designs on fabrics stolen, think of the people you have denied that revenue. For it is their love of life we bathe ourselves of our identity.