The Art of Papua New Guinea

poster arts of Papua New Guinea copy

“The Art of Papua New Guinea” aims to document traditional and contemporary material cultures of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The extraordinarily rich artistic heritage of PNG has fascinated not only artists and anthropologists, but also, since the opening of the country to the modern world, international dealers and collectors, notably from Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. The constant appetite for Papua New Guinean traditional art forms has led to the dispersal of PNG’s cultural heritage. The rapidity of changes affecting the country has not permitted the protection and the conservation of material testimonies of the past. As a result the most important ancient artifacts are today overseas. However, the development of new technologies allows the recovery of documentation to the national PNG community and to the local communities of origin. A growing number of museums and archive centres have their collections online and we are forming partnerships with these institutions to develop and systematize documentation and make it available both to Papua New Guinean scholars and cultural actors and to the international scholastic community for educational and scientific use.

In this way the project of the Melanesian and Pacific Studies Centre aims to answer a plea expressed by PNG cultural institutions, local communities and a young generation of PNG scholars studying or conducting research at the University of PNG for help in the recovery of cultural information crucial to the framing of local and national identities. Groups of students, gathered by provincial affiliation, will collect information from their communities and will relate their ethnographic findings with reproductions of artifacts and ethnographic pictures available from overseas museums and archive centres.

Technically the project will consist of the creation of 20 sets of around 30 laminated posters that will feature important aspects of the arts and material culture for each province. These posters will reproduce artifacts and ancient photographs alongside ethnographic information, bringing together published and unpublished scientific material and recent field investigations conducted by UPNG students. These posters will compose a travelling exhibition that will circulate in the schools and communities of the country to enable younger generations of Papua New Guineans to encounter a part of their cultural heritage that left their communities in previous generations.

On 16th September 2013, MAPS will display a preview of the project highlighting the first five provinces. The draft of the posters of the first provinces will be put on display on this occasion.  In addition outstanding drawings made by Otto Finsch in the late 19th century and very rare photographs of the first German Catholic priests based in German New Guinea will be shown for the first time in PNG after more than 100 years.

The project will last four years and will focus on twenty two provinces. In the next two years, the research team will work on the following provinces.

July 2013- June 2014: Manus, East Sepik, Sandaun, Central, and Chimbu

July 2014- June 2015: Enga, East New Britain, West New Britain, Morobe, Western Province

The show will only last for a day and will take place near the show ground of the University of Papua New Guinea.

Date 16th September 2013.

Entrance free.

All welcome.


The project is kindly supported by the Christensen Fund.