By PETER KINJAP
THE Divine Word University (DWU) community in Madang is always pleased to host the DWU Cultural Festival every year in the third week of August.
It is a lively event with traditional songs and dances as students take the centre stage with those from neighbouring Solomon Islands also showcasing their culture. A musical group from Fiji performing at the last festival made it a somewhat Melanesian event.
The students from all 22 provinces in the country usually participate. The public in Madang and visiting tourists and the growing expatriate community of Chinese, Filipinos and Europeans usually take the chance to see a sampling of the diverse cultures and traditions of Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.
Many students have their parents, guardians and extended relatives on campus to assist them with the preparations and performances as well.
The inclusion of mostly highlands parents is a testament to the level of pride and support they have for their sons, daughters, nephews and cousins.
The highlands students usually appear more spectacular when their elders put the finishing touches on the face painting and traditional attire.
The annual festival is set by the university administration for the students to acknowledge their indigenous roots in traditional song, dance, costumes and folklore.
Former president of the Divine Word University and now Higher Education Secretary Fr Jan Czuba said the cultural day was not a “show” but a day the students must be given a chance to reflect on the importance and values of the indigenous cultures of Papua New Guinea amidst the influences of modern ways.
Living up to the university’s slogan “Valuing our culture and heritage through collaboration”, students from various provinces in PNG put on a lively display of their cultural heritage through their bilas (traditional regalia), dancing and singing at the Madang campus.
During preparations on the day, if you go around the university, you would see parents and relatives crouched over seated students to get the arrays of beautiful feathers aligned.
It’s a proud moment for parents and relatives to see their young ones take to the arena to promote their culture.
The event has now no doubt become part of the Madang calendar and is one of the national cultural festivals with recognition from the Government through PNG Tourism Promotion Authority.
DWU, a keen promoter of Melanesian culture, encourages students to value their traditions and cultural heritage. In 1996, it was declared a university by the Government thought then Prime minister Sir Julius Chan, from Divine Word Institute.
The annual cultural event provides the avenue to get together to share heritage through songs, dancing and enactments of ceremonies.
You would be captivated by the colours of the costumes, the differences in their attire and also some of the dances you have never seen before.
There is a wider range of singsings than other cultural events in the country.
You can take as many photos as you could and there is no restriction – you might run out of space in your memory card. Note to take extra batteries and cards for your cameras if you are photographing.
DWU as a tertiary institution is a special place for students from different backgrounds to come together and study and engage in peace and harmony with each other as Jesus Christ the “Divine Word” has taught us.
DWU has remained a beautiful campus, carefully tended and well-known as a safe, peaceful and pleasant environment in which to pursue one’s higher education.
The university also has a heart, a soul, a spirit, a social, spiritual and cultural environment in which academics can easily transmit knowledge and students can grow in wisdom and grace.
Many times the international news is not good – wars, suicide bombings, terrorist attack, killing in a school or community, violence in the streets or on a university campus. The list is long. There is too much violence.
The local news is also bad, of tribal fights, murders, rapes, corruption, domestic violence and child abuse. There is too much violence.
What can any of us do about these things, this violence? Perhaps, we think, not much – except for each of us to build a habit of nonviolence in our own hearts, in our own personal behaviour.
And, we can influence others close to us to do the same. Every Papua New Guinean should be proud of your ethnic heritage and traditions.
In the country’s political events, let us passionately discuss and debate the issues that face our nation but not allow political rivalries to destroy friendship and the unity of our nation.
Leave anti-social behaviour, such as drunkenness, drug abuse, bullying, manipulation and every kind of violence out.
How wonderful it is, how pleasant it is, for God’s people to live together in harmony.
Against the background of his alluring calls comes a cacophony of traditional songs, kundus, the rhythmic beat of the brass band, bag pipers, intermingled with the happy claps and delightful shouts of children and adults.
Culture is a rich tourism commodity. We have our carvings, traditional dances, arts and crafts, contemporary theatre groups and so forth.
Culture has a lot to offer to the development of the tourism industry in Papua New Guinea.
While institutions like DWU are trying to promote the cultures, all Papua New Guineans should also ensure that those cultures are protected from exploitation because they are their pride and give them their identity.
It is thus important that cultures are maintained and passed on from one generation to the next.
Students from throughout the country including those from Solomon Islands and Fiji, and our Melanesian friends from West Papua attending DWU also display their unique cultures during their cultural festival.
In 2016, Ramu NiCo in Madang also took the opportunity to display its project by way of awareness and reaching out to the public at the DWU cultural festival.
Ramu NiCo’s participation has been ongoing since its inception in Madang and such involvement is due to the strong relationship between DWU and Ramu NiCo to date.
President of Ramu NiCo, Wang Jicheng with other senior staff also visited the cultural day to experience firsthand unique cultures of the country while also supporting the promotional activities by Ramu NiCo staff during the day.
“I am very excited to come here and see the different cultures of PNG as shown by the dances and the beautiful body decorations,” Wang said.
Academics John Imbal and Nathaline Murki from the DWU’s tourism and hospitality department also did a paper on the cultural festival.
Their study reports on an assessment of the 2010 Cultural Day event and implications for management of cultural events.
It investigated the opinions and reactions of a sample of visitors to the cultural day celebrations and provides information on aspects of the promotion and programme for the event, the economic impact of the event and visitor demographics.
The assessment is intended to provide useful information as a guide for improvement of this event through promotion strategies; planning the programme, services and facilities; income generation; and economic impact.
The study should be of interest to stakeholders and the organisers for ongoing development and improvement of cultural event management.
The university student representative council (SRC) cultural committee facilitates and organises the event.
SRC secretary Lavina Lore, a third year Tourism and Hospitality student says the festival is scheduled for August 17 this year.
Those who are planning to visit the event may contact the SRC secretary to organise your visit.
- Peter Kinjap is a freelance writer and a blogger. Email: [email protected]