Lessons behind the great sea wall of Koki

Normal, Weekender

A 1,200 sqm mural painted along Port Moresby’s Ela Beach could be recognised as the longest in the world, writes KAIRU LAHO

THE Great Sea Wall of Koki. This is written as the opening remark at one end of the mural, nearest to Koki Market, and underneath it, ‘The largest mural painting in the world’.
The current world record is held by a 1005sqm painting completed in India in 2007. If the Koki mural is entered in the Guinness Book of Records, then PNG will hold the world record with 1,200sqm.
Nevertheless, lead artist and senior lecturer of visualanthropology at the University of Papua New Guinea, Dr Nicolas Garnier is a proud man, having led a group of unemployed young men and four women who had little knowledge of art and yet they completed the project in a short period of time.
“The artistic quality of the mural is a great and pleasant surprise for all of us, the participants, organisers and sponsors,” he said at the completion of the project.
The mural is a succession of sky views and underwater scenes in alteration.
Dr Garnier said he came up with the concept after he realised at art classes held in 2005 and 2007 that even untrained participants were able to paint animals from their environment without much problem.
The painters came from the Moresby South electorate whose Member of Parliament, Dame Carol Kidu, initiated the project with the support of the Port Moresby chamber of commerce, Ginigoada Bisnis Development Foundation Inc and the University of Papua New Guinea.
The work was done in extremely dangerous conditions.
“We were exposed to pollution which is very high in that part of the city that there is already a thin layer of black particles over the mural,” Dr Garnier said.
But out of this project, Dr Garnier is satisfied that UPNG was able to further its community outreach and in helping to make better citizens out of the participants.
“I also tried to instil in the young people good values which can help them to lead productive lives in future.
“The success of this project was also due to the very tough discipline I imposed on the participants. We were driven by a shared goal and the participants and community leaders who assisted saw the need to produce a work of quality.”
Dr Garnier said the project was one where the participants feel a sense of ownership and pride in.
He said he has recognised the need for further training in art for most participants and is suggesting that art classes be given once a week.
At the end of the mural towards Ela Beach is a note of thanks to the organisations and business houses who supported financially and to those who gave beach umbrellas and caps, T-shirts, tins of paint, refreshments and secure storage space for the material.