Papua New Guinea’s Goroka Show 2015 – Day One

2015 Goroka Show

A young boy from the Eastern Highlands wearing the full traditional costume of his tribe

Papua New Guinea, 11 September 2015:   After three years of coming in and out of Papua New Guinea, I was finally able to grab a chance and squeeze into the busy work schedule, a personal trip to the Goroka Show – a three-day cultural festival featuring the traditional “Sing-sing” (ethnic song and dance) groups of the various highland tribes of the country.

Goroka Show

A “pikinini” (children) sing-sing group and their coach makes their way to the showground

Goroka Show 2015

The crowd’s favorite, a group of girls from Simbu Province tensely prepare for the show as some parents apply final touches to their costumes

“The Goroka Show is probably the best known tribal gathering and cultural event in Papua New Guinea. It is a Sing-sing held every year close to the country’s Independence Day (16 September) in the town of Goroka, the capital of the Eastern Highlands Province. About 100 tribes arrive to show their music, dance and culture. The festival started in the mid-1950s as an initiative of Australian Kiaps. In recent years it has become a major attraction for both national and international tourists and remains the largest cultural event in Papua New Guinea despite similar shows now being organised in Mount Hagen and other cities around the country.” (wikipedia)

Goroka Show 2015

The show is formally opened by local leaders in a simple opening program

Goroka Show 2015

School kids holding PNG flags and wearing Independence Day shirts participate in the opening rites. The Goroka Show is held almost simultaneously with the observance of the Papua New Guinea’s Independence Day every 16th of September.

Goroka Show 2015

A local school teacher in traditional costume takes a photo of the opening ceremony using his mobile phone. While PNG promotes its cultural traditions, it has also embraced modern technology. Most urban parts of the country are connected to the rest of the world with mobile phone and internet service.

After a brief (less than one hour) flight from Port Moresby, I arrived in Goroka just in time to catch the first day of the show.  A lady named Veronica, the owner of an obscure but neat inn called “Holiday Lodge” was at the airport to fetch me.  Because of the late decision on my part to visit the show, all the major hotels in the city were fully booked to tourists and I was lucky to find a room at her simple inn.  After getting me the 3-days worth of VIP passes at the Bird of Paradise Hotel, for which I had to pay 250 kina (around $100), Veronica showed me my room at her place and then sent a guide to accompany me to the show ground located inside the compound of the National Sports Institute (NSI) which is right in the middle of town and just a stone’s throw from the airport.  Having reached the main entrance of NSI, I gave the guide a few kinas and sent him home.  I wanted to get lost inside the showground for the rest of the day.

Goroka Show 2015

A group of teenagers represent another highland tribe in the sing-sing competition

Goroka Show 2015

A young man smiles for the camera

Goroka Show 2015

A final huddle and prayer before the actual performance. Papua New Guinea tribes are now predominantly Christian.

Day 01 of show includes the opening program and a sing-sing competition for the “pikinini” or children although it seemed that some adults have decided to join the children’s sing-sing groups and, many parents dressed in contemporary clothing, closely watched their kids, coaching them, fixing their costumes, and taking photos as their kids sang and danced and yelled their group chants.  By just a little past mid-day, the singing and dancing gradually slowed down only to be suddenly shattered by a motorcycle daredevil driving into the showground like a madman and causing the awed and excited pikininis to chase the motorbike around like a wave of human beings flowing and swirling from one side of the field to the other.

Goroka Show 2015

The fabled “Mudmen of Asaro” entertain the crowd with their scary masks and mystic movements.

Goroka Show 2015

A group of kids and their parents take shelter under a tent. The show is being held under the scorching heat and humidity of a tropical sun.

Goroka Show 2015

A boy from a group called “dwofs” (dwarves?) cools himself with an “ice candy”

Goroka Show 2015

A concerned mom feeds her costumed son with some biscuits

Exhausted and wary of a possible stampede, I made my way to one of the food stalls in another section of the institute and then ordered a lamb skewer and a coke for lunch. Having filled up and cooled myself down, I spent some time inspecting the various displays of souvenirs and local artifacts, decided to get myself several packs of highland coffee for friends back home, then started to find my way back to my temporary home, excited to view in my laptop what I captured in photos so far.

Goroka Show 2015

Three young ladies in their glorious costumes and headdresses

Goroka Show 2015

Boys in headgear that mimic another type of bird

Goroka Show 2015

Like the tribal warriors of the olden days, these boys try to look fierce in their costumes

Indeed, all the pikininis of the world need to establish a strong association with the deepest of their ethnic identities before they lose it to the clashing cultures of the rest of the universe.  Day one of the Goroka Show was doing exactly that.

Goroka Show 2015

A young girl proudly shows of her tribal costume

Goroka Show 2015

A young boy (featured in topmost photo) shows annoyance as his mother fixes his headgear

Goroka Show

A father proudly poses with his two sons who were now properly inducted into their tribal culture at a young age

Author’s Note:  A new series will be started soon to showcase the best photos I have gathered from this year’s Goroka Show.  Thanks for faithfully following this blog. – Jessie

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