By KELVIN JOE
WHEN he arrived in Port Moresby for a holiday 30 years ago from his Kangri village in Kundiawa-Gembogl, Chimbu as a 15-year-old Grade Seven student, Apa Hugo did not plan to stay.
“I came to Port Moresby just to spend the Christmas holiday with my uncle Kawage Matias who was an artist. Most of his paintings depict our traditional and contemporary way of living with significant cultural meanings. (It) encouraged me to paint.”
Apa decided to stay and learn the art from his uncle. It was 1992.
Fast forward to today, and Apa, 45, has two sons and a daughter aged between 15 and 18 living with him in Port Moresby. They live on his income from painting.
He is passing on to them his skills.
Apa is also encouraging other relatives including his nephews and nieces to paint because he believes that there is a huge potential and opportunity for job advancement and personal development in the art and craft industry in PNG.
“ I came to Port Moresby just to spend the Christmas holiday with my uncle Kawage Matias who was an artist. Most of his paintings depict our traditional and contemporary way of living with significant cultural meanings. (It) encouraged me to paint.”
Accepted, the income to be earned to support his family is important. But there is also the satisfying feeling of promoting the country’s cultures and people through the paintings.
Apa is happy that he is doing his bit to promote the country here and abroad.
“I always share my skills with young people and push them not to just laze around and get involved in illegal activities in the city but to engage themselves in worthwhile activities including paintings, and making a living from it.”
Like his uncle and mentor Kawage, Apa has also been focusing his paintings on traditional and contemporary way of living.
“My paintings are based on our traditional lives with a theme behind every picture to show the younger generation, tourists and expatriates how we live. This is not only for income.”
He depicts fishing, hunting, gardening, traditional attires and animals in various provinces.
His paintings show traditional settings and the lifestyles of the people in the islands, coasts and highlands, using his imagination and creativity to create masterpieces.
He makes around K2,500 on average weekly, and up to K7,000 during national and international arts and crafts exhibitions.
“In the past five years before the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic hit us in 2019, I usually send my paintings to Australia during the arts and crafts exhibitions. I receive between K5,000 and K7,000 for my portraits.”
He charges between K50 and K2,500 for a painting, depending on the size and amount of paint used.
Apa has an established list of customers who every now and then request him to paint special pieces for decoration at home, in the church, classroom or office.
Looking back, he does not regret the decision he made to stay back in Port Moresby after that 1992 Christmas holiday.
He has now mastered somewhat the basics of painting and thanks to his uncle, he is making a living out of it to support his family and relatives.
His advice: Believe in yourself and what you can do, work hard, and overcome obstacles to achieve your dream.