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Global

Spotlight Papua New Guinea The cloak of kinship Tribal identity is often a stronger force than national identity in Papua New Guinea. But there are cultural traditions that help bind the nation together as well as uniting the population with other Melanesians Phil Mercer From the extravagant Huli and Duna Wigmen of the rugged Southern Highlands to the unknown caves and volcanic peaks of West New Britain and the ritualistic sing sings in the Western Highlands, Papua New Guinea is a place like no other. It is mesmerising, unpredictable and beautiful. Prone to severe earthquakes and tsunamis, Australia’s nearest neighbour sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of often thunderous seismic activity, and is a golden treasure trove of history and traditions whose people speak more than 800 indigenous languages. Traditions are underpinned by the twin pillars of Papua New Guinean (PNG) society – the sanctity of land and the cloak of kinship. Ancient rituals, where tribal warriors are painted in vivid colours, adorned with shells and striking costumes, have remained unchanged for generations. The famous Wigmen of the alpine peaks of the Southern Highlands worship birds, imitating them in dances and gilding their headdresses with feathers, flowers and possum fur. Each of the nation’s 20 provinces proudly host cultural shows and festivals, celebrations of ancient ways and unparalleled opportunities for the world to glimpse unique cultural treasure at close quarters. The jewels include the Hiri Moale, held in the national capital Port Moresby, and the The annual Goroka Show sees around 100 tribes showcase their music, dances and tribal rituals to celebrate Independence Day www.global global four th quar ter 2014 -br ief ing.org l 33 


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