By DAPHNE WANI
BEHIND the story of the ‘World’s first circumnavigation of the island of New Guinea in a traditional sailing canoe’ – is another story – of the people who have supported Milne Bay brothers Justin and Sanakoli John and Danish adventurer Thor F. Jensen to complete the trip.
One of The Fellowship of the Tawali Pasana’s many Facebook supporters is Dr Rob Goodfellow, who has not only assisted the expedition financially but also with expertise as a volunteer.
Goodfellow is a typical Australian who was born somewhere else. He spent his early childhood in Newfoundland (Canada) where they have, as locals say, ‘nine months of winter and three months of bad weather’. He now lives in Wollongong, NSW, where he teaches at the local university. He writes books and provides both paid and pro bono services through
www.culturalconsulting.com.au. Cultural Consulting offers expertise in everything from managing cultural programmes to project and crisis management.
Goodfellow first encountered Danish adventurer Jensen at Lido village in Vanimo, during one of his regular writing retreats.
Goodfellow explained: “Every year in November I go to PNG – I look forward to it so much – it is a relief from final year marking. I always go to the Vanimo Surf Lodge – to finish editing whatever book I’m working on. The trouble is, the surf is just too good and I never get as much writing done as I would like. The lodge manager introduced me to Thor. He said, ‘There’s an extraordinary young Dane staying in the village that you should meet’.
“Thor and I had dinner together every night and a strong friendship was established. I was intrigued to be invited to contribute to ‘a world first’. Honestly, how often do you get to be involved in a world first of anything? And so – the actual sailing might be done by Justin, Sanakoli and Thor
. . . but I very much feel a part of The Fellowship of the Tawali Pasana and equally involved in the very positive benefits for the nation of Papua New Guinea.
“Traditional culture is in rapid decline in most parts of the world – overwhelmed by the juggernaut of globalisation. One of the antidotes to this is that young people need to beware of the enduring value of their own cultures and that this is the greatest foundation for ‘cherry picking’ the best that the modern world should offer. It is like the Tawali Pasana – ‘traditional wisdom that has stood the test of time’. Every society needs role models – and in my view Justin and Sanakoil are Melanesian super heroes.
“Thor is a filmmaker; I know that his vision is to make a documentary that captures the immense challenge of the circumnavigation, the fellowship of three adventurers, and the idea that so much can be achieved when people work together for a common goal and in turn showcase the remote and diverse beauty of New Guinea,” said Goodfellow.
“There are, of course, many types of tourism. Each experience is a type of brand. The question is: what is the brand cache unique to your country – to PNG and what will bring the Baby Boomers to your shores? What activities will strengthen and not destroy traditional culture while advancing the very best opportunities for young people?”
What kinds of opportunities was Goodfellow referring to?
“There is a saying in marketing, ‘find out what people want and then give them a lot of it’,” he said. “Right now, the generation with all the money and time to spend it are The Baby Boomers. These are people born between 1946 and 1964 – who are semi-retired or retired and have savings and assets and time. Baby Boomers want a more active and more experiential type of holiday. Researchers understand this, because we have asked them. They want to meet people and make friends and learn and contribute; because this generation is not going to leave their money to their children like their parents before them did – rather, they are going to spend it on lifestyle, of which holidays and even volunteering are prominent.
“And so, PNG is ideally placed to be a beneficiary of this generation preoccupations. Just look at the global interest in the Mount Hagen and Goroka festivals – who do we see there? Baby Boomers. What are they interested in? Culture, people and an opportunity for personal development through giving back.”
He went on to say that the Tawali Pasana is the product of thousands of years of Milne Bay seafaring expertise. “The craft is perfectly suited to the waters of New Guinea. But it is also a metaphor for life in the 21st Century – the best of the old must be valued – because only then can the best of the new be recognised and adopted. Equally, the idea of traditional wisdom that has stood the test of time is immensely appealing to a Western audience – because the West have largely lost – or rather given away many of their traditional cultures.”
I now see Justin and Sanakoli as the guardians of traditional knowledge and wisdom – but who also live in the so-called modern world. The brothers from Mine Bay are an example of the extraordinary truth that PNG can have it all – the best of the old and the best of the new. These sentiments are echoed by expedition leader Jensen who like Goodfellow sees huge potential in Justin and Sanakoli as role models because of their skill , courage and perseverance. Jensen says: “They are a great example for the youth of Papua New Guinea. Their devotion to the project and the application of their forefathers’ skills in a modern context is an inspiration.”
This week, after spending a month and a half on land waiting for the winds to blow in their favour, The Fellowship of the Tawali Pasana has set sail again – from Bula village in Western on their long home coming to Milne Bay where the brothers will be welcomed dock-side, safe from the sea, by their elderly mother.
And the good news is that PNG-based Consort Shipping has recognised the important nation-building role of the expedition, and like volunteers Goodfellow and international sea kayaking adventurer Sandy Robson, Consort has also joined the growing Fellowship of the Tawali Pasana – as sponsors.
By DAPHNE WANI