Cultural preservation is undermined

The National, Thursday July 21st, 2016

The National Film Institute, formerly known as Skul Bilong Wokim Piksa is known for producing some of our early and better known film producers.  Likewise, the Raun Raun Theatre produced a handful actors and comedians.
Ask any Papua New Guinea in the know and they’ll tell you a little tale of the two Goroka-based institutions and the theatre, film and music they have brought to their homes to amuse and educate them. It is an unfortunate reality that these institutions made up of vibrant young Papua New Guinean artists and producers have now been almost forgotten.
Along with the Institute of PNG Studies, these government organisations mandated with preserving and documenting the countries art and culture have been starved of necessary financial support for them to maintain their ongoing operations or new developments.
These three government institutions that play vital roles in preserving and promoting PNGs cultures are in dire need of funding according to the new chief executive of National Cultural Commission.
Unfortunately, Casper Damien may only be echoing a plea that has been made on many occasion in the past by his predecessor.
Damien says the Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies (IPNGS), National Film Institute (NFI) and National Performing Arts Troup (NPAT) or Raun Raun Theatre which are under the National Cultural Commission, have been neglected and under-funded for so many years.
“As a result the buildings including office complex and staff accommodation are totally run down and urgently need maintenance.”
“Many of our equipment that are used to record history need replacements due to the introduction of the new digitized system.”
Besides the run-down physical structures of these institutes, there has been a steady movement of staff, perhaps because they feel nobody values their jobs and the institutions.
During a recent trip to Goroka with the Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Damien saw firsthand the appalling conditions of the Raun Raun Theatre and National Film Institute.
“The conditions we saw were unbelievable. These institutions represent the people of PNG and their cultures but they are being left to rot over the years.
“Full financial and manpower support is needed to revive these institutions back to their core functions and responsibility once again, he said.
Since taking office as CEO six weeks ago, Damien has been working tirelessly to revive NCC. He has begun addressing basic office procedures that have been lacking over the years but needs the full backing of the Government with funding so he could fix some problems such as building infrastructures.
The NCC desperately requires government assistance in restoring these institutions to truly represent the cultural and artistic pride of the country.
The Goroka-based institutions and the Institute of PNG Studies, tucked away at an obscure section of the Boroko business centre are in dire need of refurbishments.
And it is hoped that the new Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister would also be as keen as the director of the National Cultural Commission to restore some pride to the institutions which represent the heart and soul of the country.
Minister Tobias Kulang has so far toured parts of the country to assess the tourism potential in those areas. He has met with provincial and regional tourism promotion bodies and industry players.
There is a general sense of renewed willingness and eagerness to work with government agencies to enhance growth in the sector.
A number of tourism products all around the country, from Bougainville to Milne Bay, New Britain, and the Highlands regional generally have been identified which have had very little exposure in the market.
Provincial and regional authorities have been urged to improve own their efforts to promote such products to lure tourists. The country’s natural beauty and diverse geographical features are a certain attraction to the overseas and even local tourist yet these alone are not the whole package Papua New Guinea has on offer.
Dances, art, music and folklore are part and parcel of what draws visitors to our shores. Yeah, that sounds already like the dry political rhetoric that has been drummed time and again! The point needs making again though, because it appears the very institutions that are mandated to preserve and keep records of the country’s culture for posterity are being threatened by neglect.