What amazing wonders you can discover in the attic. Reminders of bygone days and past adventures. I found this old wood carving up there the other day – from Papua New Guinea, would you believe?
Yes, that was an interesting trip, a long time ago, in the early eighties I think…
And it was only fifty years after the Highlands of Papua New Guinea had been “discovered” by white people. The indigenous population was still adapting to Western ways, having been totally self-sufficient before that.
Their clothes were made from natural fibres, they were hunter-gatherers, living in small villages in the jungle and tending their forest gardens. Thatched wooden houses, Spirit houses, dug-out canoes… they kept pigs and their wealth was measured by the number of pigs they had.
I remember the security man outside the chemist had a bow and arrow.
In Mount Hagen, it was a bizarre mix of old and new. I saw a man with green leaves for “underwear” and a transistor radio on his shoulder. Umbrellas were a handy Western invention though – as it rained every evening at sundown.
And I happened to be there when the Pope was visiting and people came out in traditional ceremonial dress. Each tribe had their own distinctive costumes. Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world with over 800 languages. Tok Pisin (pidgin English) is the most widely used language.
I found some of the old photographs in the attic – a lot of them were faded now. A great pity because I remember the intense colours still, the lush greens of the jungle, the red roads, the bird of paradise feathers…
I made one painting after I came home. As you can see, I was no Paul Gauguin, but here it is anyway, dated 1988. The lady has her pig on a lead.
Sin mo scéal inniu, lukim yu behain – slán go fóill, eoin