Papua New Guinea’s Goroka Show – Day Two

Goroka Show

A highlands tribesman makes his way to the showground for day two of the Goroka Show

12 September 2015,  Papua New Guinea – It’s the second day of the Goroka Show and I was excited to see what surprises they have organized for this day.  Day one was fun with the tribal kids competing in sing-sing performances.  I was told that around 100 adult sing-sing groups usually participate on Day 02  and I can’t wait to see it.  I woke up early, had a cup of coffee after taking a shower, then was already pacing the three or so blocks towards the showground by seven o’clock.  The Israeli couple I was chatting with back at the hotel commented that it’s too early to go to the showground and that there would be nothing to see there yet but I didn’t mind.  I wanted to do an early morning walk and feel the morning breeze in Goroka.

Goroka Show 2015

The chieftain of one the tribes gets his make-up and headdress done by an assistant

Goroka Show 2015

Sing-sing group members help fix each others costumes before marching to the showground

Goroka Show 2015

An elaborate headdress, especially those from Eastern Highland tribes can be heavily adorned by the feathers of a number of exotic birds, including those of the world-famous bird-of-paradise

Goroka Show 2015

This tribe starts to do warm-ups and practices their moves

It was also a strategy I use in most festivals I attend; I go very early to the area where the show or parade is being organized.  That way I’m able to capture show groups and individuals in their morning freshness (before they look too sweaty and exhausted) and while they are still putting on their make up and costumes or warming up their moves — lots of candid actions one won’t get during the actual show.

Goroka Show

Tribe by tribe, the sing-sing groups started to move towards the showground

Goroka Show 2015

Goroka Show 2015

Goroka Show 2015

Goroka Show 2015

Goroka Show 2015

Goroka Show 2015

Goroka Show 2015

Goroka Show 2015

Goroka Show 2015

As I have anticipated, there were some groups who were already organizing themselves when I arrived at the showground just a few minutes past 7:00.  Adult sing-sing groups were competing on this day.  Putting on the make-up and headgear — often composed of huge colorful amounts of bird feathers, including those of the famed bird-of-paradise — appears to take most of the time.  But as soon as the costumes are set right, the groups start chanting and dancing on pavement as the crowd, composed of tourists and locals alike, started to fill the road leading to the show ground.

Goroka Show 2015

The costumes and body paint distinguishes the tribe or area from the which the group belong but the sheer number of groups made it impossible to capture this information

Goroka Show 2015

Goroka Show 2015

Goroka Show 2015

Goroka Show 2015

Goroka Show 2015

Goroka Show 2015

The showground at the National Sports Institute (NSI) in Goroka was divided into three main sections. One area features a live band on stage in front of an open ground surrounded by food stalls that served anything from barbecue to sandwiches and hotdogs. In another section, souvenir items including  a wide array of bilum bags, wood carvings, and traditional artifacts were on display.  The main area, the showground itself, was a large cordoned area at the center which only dignitaries, sing-sing groups, and tourists with “VIP passes” (the one I bought for K250) can enter.

Goroka Show 2015

An all men group heats up the beat with their kundu drums

Goroka Show 2015

Most highland groups originally came from hunter-gatherer tribes

Goroka Show 2015

The Sili Muli Women from Enga and their synchronized moves with the kundu drums

Goroka Show 2015

This group showcases basic fire-making as the gist of their performance

Goroka Show 2015

Sing-sing bands and groups have evolved from the performances of most tribes. This group uses a combination of wooden instruments.

Goroka Show 2015

The melodious voices of these kids blend perfectly with the traditional instruments being played by the adults

Goroka Show 2015

Another group of women uses bamboo instruments

Goroka Show 2015

This yellow-themed group also uses bamboo as musical instrument

Before 9:00 am, the sing-sing groups started moving from the main road to the show ground amidst a thick crowd of tourists and local spectators.  Group after group, tribe after tribe, costume after costume; the sing-sing groups poured into the show ground one after the other.  As a group entered the main area, they were ushered to a section where they will perform their “sing-sing” (song and dance) as the “VIP” spectators milled around, checking out whichever group attracted their attention.   Cash rewards were reportedly at stake for the winners thus each group was really trying its best to catch attention.   I followed a group from the main road to the showground thinking that it was the last only to find out more than two hours later that more groups have been and were still arriving.  By 12:00 noon, the show ground was packed. I counted at least 50 sing-sing groups.

Goroko Show 2015

It was almost impossible to get good photos of the groups as they perform their sing-sing without catching the throng of other photographers in the resulting photos

Goroka Show 2015

As if part of the whole choreography, a tourist in the background shows her photos to tribesmen as another group performs in the foreground

Goroka Show 2015

A small group of women among the many other groups wanting to be noticed

Goroka Show

In general, show participants are all too willing to be photographed

Goroka Show

Some tribesmen purposely leave their groups to pose for eager tourists although most of them may request for money to cover their food or refreshment

I found the way the show was set-up quite confusing and presenting a number of advantages and disadvantages for the photographer looking to capture a good photo of each group.  The show was not in a stadium where spectators were in covered bleachers and those doing the show were in the open ground below and thus photographers can get good, clean shots.  In Goroka’s case, both the spectators and the sing-sing groups were in the open field  resulting to a “free-for-all” field day for photographers.  The advantage of course was that one can get up close and personal with the participants and get striking close-up photos.  The main disadvantage was that it was almost impossible to get photos of sing-sing groups with clean background or without catching another photographer or spectator in the resulting image.  I actually had  to shoot upwards for most close-up shots to get the sky instead of somebody’s ear or nose at the background.

Goroka Show

By mid-afternoon, as the crowd starts to thin out, group photos were getting a lot better

Goroka Show

The groups, especially the women, were obviously exhausted but just took short breaks then went back to their sing-sing again

Goroka Show 2015

Goroka Show 2015

Goroka Sow

A “bushman” and his group catches their breath while watching other groups perform

Goroka Show

This unique group, the Sili Muli Women from Enga Province, also takes a break from going back to their drum and dance routine

By mid-afternoon, the sing-sing groups started to disperse while the live band show was still in full swing at the other section of the showground.  Sing-sing group members, still wearing their masks and costumes, started visiting the stalls looking for food or just checking out the souvenir items.  It was another photo opportunity for tourists still seeking photos of or with the costumed tribesmen and women.  Photographers can actually invite some to pose in areas with cleaner and more appropriate background but, understandably, most of them want some cash or food in return.  Exhausted from “shooting frenzy” under intense tropical heat in a crowded environment; I decided I had enough for the day and started making my way through the swirling sea of humanity towards my hotel, fully satisfied that I got what I came for at the Goroka Show, the most colorful show on earth.

Goroka Show

A tribesman hollers to his groupmates to signal the start of their sing-sing routine

Author’s Note: My favorite shots will be posted in a separate series.  Thanks for following A Traveller’s Tale. 🙂

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