Expect a blast at Kagamuga

Weekender

THIS year has brought a new perception to the Mount Hagen Cultural Show committee in setting its priority to regain and restore the corporate sector’s confidence leading to the staging of another colourful cultural extravaganza in August.
The show committee would have saved nearly K100,000 if it was not for the Kagamuga show ground upgrading and hosting of the amphitheater and the show rugby nines competition.
These are events that would otherwise consume a lot of the money but a successful team led by John Bonny had saved at least K30,000 to bring forward in preparation for this year’s annual cultural festival, planning to make it even bigger and bigger.
The 2018 Mount Hagen Cultural Show expenditure has set a new precedent to save the remaining funds and bring forward the balance for the following year. This is mainly due to a new management and committee members with strict controls on spending.
Other committee members representing various organisations who come together to form this strong team include Phil Kelly from Tinining Limited, Pim Mamandi from Paiya Tours, Pauline Grove from Trans Niugini Tours and James Wakapu from
the provincial tourism, arts and culture division.
Chairman John Bonny said the committee had saved K30,000 which formed the basis for raising funds for this year. The business community’s involvement with key departments and schools ensures that traditions, cultures and customary practices are maintained.
The new committee also talked about changing the 2019 board structure and job delegation, show budget, venue, sponsorship and fundraising, admission tickets, show badges and cultural group registrations.
For the first time in the festival’s history, corporate sponsors would also be issued certificates of appreciation in various categories to honour their ongoing support towards the hosting of the annual cultural event.
The committee agreed on how to approach the wider business community in the province and the country through effective commuication to lay out the choice of sponsorship categories of gold, silver, copper, bronze and plate. The first of those categories is naming rights sponsor.
With a history that dates back almost 60 years, the Mount Hagen Cultural Show is one of Papua New Guinea’s finest and most popular cultural events ever.
The annual show draws tribes from all over the Western Highlands as well as neighbouring provinces for cultural performances, singing and ancient rituals.
It is a vibrant display of colour, culture and crafts. The event was first hosted in 1961 long before Papua New Guinea’s independence in a bid to peacefully share and preserve the region’s traditions.
The rhythmic thumping of kundus, or lizard skin drums is the first hint of the sensual festival that lies ahead if you are around Mount Hagen city’s vicinity.
When the last of the early morning fog is yet to lift, the field behind the Kagamuga showground is usually a sea of towering headdresses, colourful flora and paint-encrusted faces who gather around the venue with echoing of chants.
Show performance preparation and dress rehearsals by each tribe would take at least up to two hours the longest. Across the field, you would see hundreds of people in various stages of preparing (or rather, undress) – tucking leaves, arranging feathers, painting bodies, examining mirrors.
Villagers from all over the region come to showcase their costumes, music, dance and culture.
For the visiting tourists, both domestic and international, it’s an opportunity to experience first-hand the customs of about 1,000 tribes in one of the most culturally intact places in the world. This is nothing but a showcase of mere ‘pride of a tribe.’
If you happen to be one of the early birds to turn up at the Kagamuga showground on that scheduled day in August, you would watch the sun’s rays catching the morning dew on black, red, yellow painted faces usually by older men. All men, from the smallest to the biggest in size and age honour their ancestors by dressing as old men, with beards and legs painted with white clay as a trademark.
When they dance – holding their hands together and jogging on the spot in several lines – the rattling of shells, bones and seed necklaces would form a mesmerizing percussion to their low chant.
War cries and whooping sounds would draw attention from the crowd, marching in a somewhat coordinated direction – going round and round in the field forming a circle with spears and traditional axes pointing out.
Many costumes evoke ancestral spirits and, although most performers won’t initiate conversation. They would look so hard as if they would want to hit you with the spears in their hands.
One may not be able stand the heat of an explosion of colour and rhythm, a brief of pounding feet and bouncing heads. Deep chants would run fingers down your spine and the beat of kundu drums would throb deep in the chest.
Tourists using oversized cameras would duck and weave between performers, jostling for the best angle, snapping selfies – and snapping at other tourists to get out of the way.
For their part, performers would seem proud to be celebrities for a weekend, admiring and posing with endless patience.
Every party has its foot-draggers and this one is no different. It’s a traditional cultural feast in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.
In almost every corner of the field, performers would continue to stamp their feet and shake their as gras (the leaves tucked into the back of their belts).
When finally all the performers had left, the showground gates are opened wide and locals – who have spent the day straining to see, to mingle, to dance, to sing – would at long last, stream onto the field, laughing as they soak up whatever is left of the cultural feast.
They would usually get into groups and start chanting out a momentum.
It’s the closing dance for the day known as waipa, in the Mepla language of Western Highlands and is usually performed by youngsters (both male and female) in courtship mood, flattering and giggling as they hold hands tightly and joggle in a clockwise direction chanting descants of love and acquaintance.
Boys would start the circle and jump around with chants. Girls would be on the look out to spot their boyfriends or someone whom they are acquainted with.
When a girl taps a boy’s back it means she wants to join the waipa ring. When they find their best man, they go round and round joggling in the afternoon dust until dark.
For this year the colorful Mount Hagen Cultural Show is scheduled on the weekend of Aug 17 and 18.
The Mt Hagen Cultural Show is certainly different this time – much bigger and better!

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