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Life Drama: Karkar Island Welcome
27 Jan 2010

Filmed and Edited by Hayley Linthwaite

The Life Drama Project, funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) linkage grant, focuses on sexual health promotion in Papua New Guinea.

From the boat we could hear the drums. Many people in traditional dress were moving forward to performatively greet us from the shore. They were holding an ephemeral structure of freshly woven palm leaves (it was explained that this metaphorically represented the door to a traditional Haus Tambaran and symbolised that we were being invited into a sacred place). A village elder asked us to state our intentions. They spoke in local Tok Ples (Takia language) and translated into English. A voice called out from behind the door:

You have kept your appointment, you said you would come and you have come. We thank you for coming. Come ashore and sit down with us and eat, and tell us why you have come.

Jedda, a member of Patillo village and key coordinator of our visit, responded from the boat. We accepted an invitation ashore. An elaborate welcome, staged by local performance troupes and members of the Island community, directed us from the boat onto the beach. We each entered the Island through the symbolic door. Kundu and Garamut drums accompanied welcome songs as we walked across the black volcanic sand via procession to a large open space. We were directed to sit on wooden benches underneath shade covering, adorned with leaves and flowers and shells. Mateland, the MC, expertly facilitated the day’s activities: songs, dances, stories, speeches, and then more songs and dances. After each performance all performance members shook our hands. Five performance troupes marked the space with large calico banners depicting images from origin stories and living legends. A band of drummers consisting of many Kundu and Garamut drums lay the music foundations. Variations of traditional dress depicted each performance troupe including grass skirts, lap laps, shells, feathers, body paint traditionally made from natural pigments, leaves and billums. Green coconuts full with milk were handed out to be drunk, a natural rehydrating source rich with electrolytes. Each member of the Life Drama team was invited to speak during the speeches and to share in a large feast of local vegetables and fruits.

We sat down, we told them why we had come and we ate together.

(Hayley’s diary, 27 January 2010)

Art Community Culture Education Health AppliedPerformance Practice-led QUT Research
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