One art form dominates when it comes to the art of Papua New Guinea: wood carving. Like in Africa, where the original people of this country came from, carved wooden masks are also commonly made here as well. These masks are tied to a number of religious purposes including masks designed for/against certain deities and ancestors.
|The tongue sticking out just gets me.|
Storyboards, like the ones I mentioned when I covered Palau, are an artistic way to depict the folklore and stories of the Papua New Guinean tribes. However, in other similar carvings, they make use of colors and decorate it with other natural elements like beads, feathers, grass twine, and shells. They also carve designs into their canoes as decoration.
One thing that binds much of their art is nature and the land around them. A variety of plants and animals are important representations in their indigenous religious beliefs. And since they have hundreds of ethnic groups and languages, there are hundreds of religious and artistic variations as well. The Sepik River Valley is one of the main areas in the country that has very deep traditional arts customs.
As far as modern artists go, there are several who have been quite successful in their field: Larry Santana (painter), Timothy Akis (batik, pen/ink drawings), and Mathias Kauage (woodcuts, drawing, painting; awarded Order of the British Empire for his contributions to Papua New Guinean art).
Literature in Papua New Guinea on a whole really didn’t take off until the 1960s. The large part of literature up until the 20th century was of an oral tradition. With colonization and the introduction/establishment of English, it began to also be included as a language of communication. However, most writers write in both English and one of the many local languages spoken here.
Ulli Beier, a Jewish German writer and academic, helped establish creative writing courses and promote (or encourage, rather) Papua New Guinean literature. (He actually worked quite a bit doing similar literary projects in Nigeria.) Besides teaching at the university level and setting up a small poet society, he also helped establish the literary magazine Kovave. This magazine made it easier for up-and-coming writers to get noticed and published, like writer John Kasaipwalova (known for his satirical plays).
Other writers include Vincent Eri (famous for his 1970 novel The Crocodile; it was the first novel published in Papua New Guinea), Albert Maori Kiki (famous for his autobiography Ten Thousand Years in a Lifetime), Nora Vagi Brash (teacher, best known as a playwright), and Ignatius Kilage (4th Governor-General of PNG; famous for his novel My Mother Calls Me Yaltep).
Up next: music and dance