House of A thousand cultural societies

Normal, Weekender

The National Museum and Art Gallery remains the finest Universal Educational Institution writes MICHAEL KISOMBO

THE PNG National Museum and Art Gallery (NMAG) is the warehouse of over 820 indigenous languages and thousand cultural societies and ethnic groups indigenous to Papua New Guinea. 
The majority of our ancestors had arrived tens of thousands of years ago and settled along the coastal lines of PNG and the vast majority moved further in land.
We now have five million people sharing this diversity in culture and language that may trace back to as far as 50,000 years ago. 
In the coastal region, people were and are still some best seafarers and long distant voyagers. They built homes along coastlines and depend entirely on the sea for their survival.
On the other hand, the highlanders built their homes in every corner of the limestone mountain ranges and high altitude valleys.
The strength of the coastal culture remains in the architecture and abundant carved images while the highlanders are more recognized in body art.
This long history of habitation has been punctuated by a very short history of intensive and, in many instances, extreme change resulting from direct contact with the world outside Island of Papua New Guinea.
There are many notable forces that continue to accelerate change in PNG but the most appealing ones are the introduction of cash in exchange for items, impact of Christian Missions on the society and the establishment of parliamentary democracy.
Since the beginning of the last century (20th century), PNG has continued to experience enormous changes. In the midst of this transition, PNG is vulnerable to losing its tangible and intangible heritage inherited from generation after generation slowly but surely, at an alarming rate.
Today, our children are more convinced that Western ideas and behaviours are superior and ours are inferior or to some extent primitive.
Take for instance, when children are told to begin their elementary education using their local vernacular as the medium of instruction, there is already resistance in the society.
Many parents are opposing the idea as they reckon, English language is more superior than their local vernacular.    
Given this gloomy picture, the NMAG remains one of the finest universal educational institutions with immense expressive power and authority. The museum stores and communicates knowledge, way of life, ideas, values and spirit of those who created them.
It communicates knowledge, including information about agriculture, mining, economy, relationship, respect; textile, weaving.
Such knowledge is now embarked by the society including education personnel, the
government and proponents of education to have an education more orientated to Papua New Guinean society. 
Museum as a venue brings together different groups of people to meet, share ideas and create debate about one’s heritage to increase understanding of how humans understand the environment around them.
The NMAG gives prominence through its public exhibits that contemporary Papua New Guinea is immune to change and will continue to evolve.
The displays and its national collections stimulate people to rethink their heritage, their beliefs and, most importantly, their identity.
Some unique and aesthetic artworks of our ancestors and biological specimens from all distinctive ethnic groups of PNG presented in the museum give
the true essence of how so many cultures bind together to live in harmony – one of the real values of being a Papua New Guinean. Through such presentation, the NMAG creates an avenue where different people could come together to understand other people’s culture and reveals that humans share values that unite people of different cultures.
In doing so, the NMAG gives first-hand experiences with objects that may not be so popular to both the young or old by allowing them to see, handle, experiment and/or even interact with the objects. Teachers, students and adults are encouraged to visit the National Museum and Art Gallery, located just opposite the National Parliament. It is open to the public at no cost Monday – Friday and Sunday from 1 – 3pm.