Faces of Goraka 19: A Chimbu Lass
This series features the various costumes, headdresses, masks, body paints and ornaments and the authentic Papua New Guinean tribesmen, women and children who wore them during the 2015 Goroka Show. Touted as “the most colorful show on earth”, the Goroka Show is celebrated around the 11th to 14th of September and participated in year after year by around a hundred “sing-sing” (traditional song and dance) groups representing various ethnic tribes coming from all over the Eastern Highlands and nearby provinces. The traditional costume being worn by an individual is often distinct to his/her tribe and distinguishes his/her group from the other participants.
This girl is part of the group of kids representing Chimbu Province in the Goroka Show. The highland province is among the most popular groups in “sing-sing” shows all over PNG partly because of the very colorful, eye-catching headdresses made of exotic birds’ feathers that they wear and the topless women and girls that compose the groups. While many other sing-sing groups also feature topless women among their group members, Chimbu groups appear to have a unique, friendly charm that makes them kind of special.
For some reason, the adult escorts and guardians of this kid’s group were initially hesitant to allow the girls to be photographed but because of the sheer number of tourists and photographers milling around the show area, they eventually realized that the restriction they were trying to impose was simply impossible. Sensing the genuine concern that the escorts were showing for their kids, I approached one of the leaders and handed her a small donation for the kid’s meals before I started taking photos. Appreciating my gesture, she happily allowed me to take as many photos as I wanted and even introduced me to some of the kids and their parents.
While the group had around 20 members, my attention was drawn to this girl in particular. To me she stood out because, unlike the other girls who were performing vivaciously and with much gusto; she was demurely doing her part in one corner, occasionally giving a hint of a smile at the corners of her well-curved lips but most of the time seriously — almost just mechanically — doing the dance until one noticed those dark, very expressive eyes beautifully set on a well-shaped face . Those piercing eyes say that she has her mind set way beyond the present show and that, I sincerely hoped for her, was a bright future.