By ANDREW ALPHONSE in TARI
IS American President Barack Obama dressed in the Huli wigman headdress an insult to the proud Huli heritage and dignity of the Hela people of Southern Highlands province?
While the Hela Gimbu Association and its backers think so, and are planning a trip to the US to seek an apology from the Tea Party group, a section of villagers in Hela spoke to by The National feel the depiction circulated widely in the United States has done the Hela culture and PNG a lot of good.
Brian Yuwi, 55, of Kikita village in Tari said each time anything about Hela came up, Port Moresby-based Hela leaders run to the media claiming to speak for the Hela population back home.
He said these leaders should go home and tour the entire Hela region to gauge the people’s views before they go about doing anything on their behalf.
Mr Yuwi, who promotes the Huli culture through his cultural performing group from Kikita, said the image of Mr Obama in Huli bilas (tradition attire) could help boost tourism for Hela and PNG.
Youth leader Peter Jack Wai said the intention of the Hela leaders to travel to the US would be seen as a joy ride for a minority under the pretext of representing Hela.
Mr Wai said this was a matter for elected Hela leaders like Governor Anderson Agiru, MPs James Marape (Tari-Pori), Francis Potape (Komo-Margarima) and John Kekeno (Koroba-Lake Kopiago) to pursue.
Hela woman’s representative Noreen Tom said seeing Mr Obama in a Huli bilas only made her proud.
“It’s good tourism promotion for Hela,” Ms Tom said, adding that Mr Obama, his family and staff at the White House must have spent time looking at the map to find out where the head dress used came from.
Another youth, Alex Urupa, said he did not find the picture of Mr Obama in Huli wig offending.
He said those who coined the picture might have wanted to portray Mr Obama’s healthcare policy as backward, but by choosing to superimpose the wig on a picture of the president, they had done a lot to promote the Hela wig and PNG in the US.
One local tour operator and a guest house owner said the image of Obama in Huli bilas best promotes the Huli culture and people should not look only at the negativity.
But 70-year-old Papali Aiyape from Maria village in Koroba said the picture was not only an insult, but humiliating to the Hela population who are proud of their culture and heritage.