“Armed carjackings, assaults, robbery, shootings and serious sexual
offences, including rape, are common in Papua” says the Foreign Office
travel advice to travelers!
The papua tourism office has a hard work convincing more people like me to come to PNG!
Once a year takes place in Mount Hagen the biggest tribal meeting, called a singsing.
The “Men bilong pait” (the Warriors) ,the” pipels” (the women), and the “pikinini” (the children) are all here. Hundreds of papus are preparing themselves for the Singsing. It’s in open air, but you feel like being backstage in the latest fashion show in Milano or Paris as men paint their faces in red,yellow,white,black, women take grass to make skirts or kilts and cover their bodies with clay, mud, or even pigs fat!
Old wise men are building the giant headdresses made of eagle, parrot and bird of paradise feathers. Each feather is packed in newspaper, to protect them from insects. It will take hours…
Some warriors wear also marsupial jaws as necklaces! “If you do not have jaws, you can put dogs teeth, it works too” they tell me!
Bones, shells, pigs tusks, or twigs are put in the noses. I meet a Highlands warrior who has gave up the traditional shell that he used to put in his nose, and now uses an electrical meter!
Papu like to put a modern touch in their jewels or decorations, as we like to put some tribal stuff in our so called designed houses!
Now it’s time for parade. All the tribes are marching. It’s a mix of
sounds and sights, not a love parade, rather a war parade!
The Mount Hagen festival was launched by the Australian colonial governor in 1964, to promote peace in the country.So…The warriors simulate fights! But the stone axes, the arrows, the shields, the spears, the bludgeons are real! There won’t be any violence during the festival, but everyday, tribal fights still take place, with guns instead of axes, and people die…
You can hear war songs, drums, and the tribes start to march in circle, in column, or in line .
The tribes keep on dancing until sundown, and have to listen to an endless speech from a local political while the few tourists go back to their hotels, stoned by the loudspeakers noise!
© Eric Lafforgue