Life in Port Moresby has improved tremendously from the 1990’s when security concerns were so bad we needed curfews to curtail crime in the city. That’s not to say that we are free of issues today but through factors such as Powes Parkop’s reclaim the night programs and his physical beautification programs, allot of the hardness of Port Moresby has softened over the years.
On the community level in Port Moresby, art projects are not new and some like the 8 Mile Settlement project has been running for several years with an aim to sell creative work from the community itself. We’ve even had international performances at the Ela Beach Amphitheatre and there’s a private fine arts gallery in Port Moresby as well.
However the Paga Hill Gallery while having a similar creative focus differs greatly in that it is actually using their creative energy as a form of protest against the well documented ‘demolition’ of their community. (You can read more details of the Paga Hill issue in this Media Pack).
On the face of it though after all has been said and done regarding the demolition and improper acquisition of titles by the developers, it appears that the National Museum and Art Gallery (NMAG) of PNG are the legal custodians of these war relics and its surroundings. As NMAG Director Andrew Moutu explained on the night, in 1952 Sir Donald Cleland after seeing the onslaught of scavengers taking out war materials from PNG after the second world war, he passed the “War Surplus Material Act (Chapter 331)” of Papua New Guinea to protect heritage materials and sites.
For the Paga Hill community it will still be a hard and bumpy road but what they did by sharing their community at their Gallery speaks volumes about their attitudes and appreciation of the location they live at. If it makes you feel any better about them, 54% of their community is in formal employment.
So if you took away all the legal issues and stripped it back to its core, last night was a truly magical experience to be lead into a settlement, then to hike up a hill to a World War II bunker that’s perched at the point of a hill with 180 degree views of the ocean and islands. Everyone of all races and places in PNG there together as one. I know it sounds cliché, but I’ve never been at such a gathering of like minded people before in such an innovatively transformed location. If that’s the sort of creative energy and open minded attitudes that we are fighting for, then in my mind it’s certainly worth fighting for.
More pictures on our Masalai Communications facebook page