Festival to overcome struggles

Weekender
TOURISM

Inaugural Binandare Ario Cultural Festival completes Independence Day celebrations

Ario dances performing e during the festival.

By BENNY GETENG
THE welcome chant of oro, oro, oro accompanied with the sound of the conch shell and the beat of kundu drums, men dressed in chieftain attire and women in tapa beckon you into Northern.
The people of Binandere living along the majestic river of Gira of the Tamata Local Level Government area of Sohe District of Northern have a story to tell.
This story is now captured in a moving tale with the inaugural Binandere Ario Cultural Festival on Sept 15 and 16 at Nindewari Village (Ward 14) of Sohe electorate.
The festival is the light at the end of the tunnel for the people and is capable of promoting tourismm and other SMEs (transport, lodges, catering, etc). The festival also exposed the daily struggles of the people for greater leadership attention both at provincial and national level.
The area is home to prominent Papua New Guineans in the likes of Professor John Waiko, Ian Jinga, Col Walter Enuma, Brigadier General Robert Dademo, Morris Tovebae, to name a few.
For the first time their sacred dances and arts have now come alive for the rest of the world to appreciate.
The festival is the initiative of local man and Pangu Pati General Secretary Morris Tovebae in partnership with Sohe Open MP Henry Amuli and the National Cultural Commission.
On Sept 10, the National Cultural Commission in the presence of Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture Emil Tammur certified the Binandere Ario Cultural Festival making it the third certified national cultural event after Gogodala Festival in Western and Kina Festival up in Western Highlands.
The two-day event came with a flare of spectacular drama and dance that depicted respective villages totems of importance.
The night before the festival, camps were set up at certain locations of Nindewari Village, where dancers made ritual practice dances and then eventually proceeded towards the main arena to camp out in special houses. Prior to this, for weeks the old and young alike had been in practice to perfect dance and drama moves to participate.
Each ward village was represented with their special totems such as the crocodile, fish, snake, pig and cave house.
Then actors in drama plays proceeded to introduce tales associated with the totems before dances successively followed after camp houses were awoken with guiding chants of spirits.
The smell of special leaves attached with traditional costumes made from natural fibers, bird feathers and kundu drums embrace the dance arena, making it a world of its own. Spectators watch in suspense as the respective dances come into the scene moving in perfected steps and motions learnt over time and practice.
The two days was drenched in sweet smell of the traditional adornment of costumes, paint and leaves of dancers. The legacy of the event will go along way for the people to finally tell their story through the dances and dramas displayed.
Back to the reality of the area, the 17 wards have been neglected since independence and therefore by hosting the festival during Independence Day celebrations is a reminder of the predicament the people face daily despite the country’s 45 years of self-rule.
The Binandere area over many years has missed out on vital basic services such as proper health facilities, schools and even economic activities in farming especially.
The main form of income at present is the sale of disease free bete lnut, organic food crops such as taro, banana,sago and fresh fish (local tilapia and stone fish) caught from Gira River.
The people pay K160-K180 to travel on dinghies to Popondetta town and K200-K250 to Lae to access services. Travel time fluctuates depending on the weather; 8-9 hours from Lae and 5-6 hours from Popondetta. The only mode of transport is the motorised boat through the sea and river leading to the 17 ward villages.
Furthermore the area lacks a high school to cater for students passing out from primary level thus students get selected to schools in Popondetta. Ultimately this is another costly exercise to send and maintain children to live and get educated in the urban setting. Many underprivileged children therefore opt to remain in the village and maintain the subsistence way of living.
Tovebae believes the Binandere Ario Cultural Festival will serve as a platform for the people to expose their rich cultural heritage for more awareness into their plight.
He says the time is now to help theBinandere people to reach the greater aim to “take back PNG.”

  • Benny Geteng is the media and communications officer to the Morobe Governor.

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