By MAINE WINNY
MY passion for photography art and design lured me into capturing the natural environment and culture of my people as I believe it offers something special for the world to experience and learn from. My first job was as a field officer and photographer for the Morobe Tourism Bureau, travelling the province for the bureau.
In 2001, a group of international English teachers based in Japan were travelling to my local area, as volunteers to help in a building program under Habitat for Humanity, an International housing NGO. I accompanied them as a guide and to document the tour for my employer.
One member of the group was Carlo Capua, a young man from Texas, USA. He was so passionate about returning to Morobe, and the idea of a culture exchange and adventure between schools in Japan and our tribe was born.
After returning to Japan, Capua quickly organised the Niigata PNG Association, with core members including, Kikuyo Suzuki, Japan, Troy Fisher Japan/USA, Dough Britain Canada, as we maintained contact via email. After just three months, he asked if I could put together a cultural awareness performing troupe to tour Japan in 2002. Bui Generations performing group was born which consisted of experienced artists and master dancers from the Zia and Mawae tribes of Morobe LLG, as well as those from Lababia Village in Salamaua, Huon Gulf district. The group soon was touring Japan and performing to schools there.
Upon returning home, Carlo, and the Niigata PNG Association in Japan brought over the first ever tourists to the Lower Waria Valley, where Carlo was inducted as a chief of the Zia Mawae tribe in appreciation for his bringing over a large group of international visitors to our tribe for the first time ever. Their two-week adventure started as soon as they arrived at Nadzab and continued to Lababia Village and on to the Kamiali wildlife management area. The group went island hopping, snorkelling and had a wonderful time visiting the Waria River during their stay in Morobe.
Over the years, team leaders in the different countries were challenged to bring visitors to PNG. Team leaders include, Troy Fisher (USA/Japan), Elisa Roberts (USA), Megan Fellows (USA), Christian Worby (UK), Dough Britain (Canada), and many other groups visited from Jamaica, Singapore, and Australia. And so, began a two way cultural exchange and eco-tourism operation between international volunteers and our tribe. Each international group numbered 20 at the most and have been making two trips a year, for over 10 years already.
The adventure programme developed naturally, incorporating a range of activities, eco adventure tours along the lower Waria River in the Huon District. The tour groups took part in village life experiences, engaging in development projects mainly in the school buildings tree planting, and school activities. Our Japan-based partners fundraised through sales of PNG artefacts, their own theatre productions and collection of donations through social clubs.
For the Bui Generation Performing Troupe, its first tour of Japan was very successful. It opened the eyes of the Japanese audiences to a whole new world. The dancers were well received by school children and it wasn’t long before some of the families started preparing to come to Morobe.
Over the years, a total of nine cultural exchanges were made by Bui dancers. Each year, different artists were involved and each became a promoter of the projects and visited schools to talk about their experiences overseas and to get our children excited about culture and its opportunities.
Culture Link PNG Eco Tourism Case Study Presentation in Canada.
The international cultural exchanges and Eco tourism programs conducted under Culture Link PNG, between the tribes of Lababia, Zia, and Mawae communities (and joined by Japanese charity organisations later in 2015) became a subject of a case study which I presented at the 4th International Aboriginal Tourism Conference held in Canada in March, 2015. The conference was held at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac, an old castle hotel in Quebec City. My paper was selected amongst more than 300 tourism applications from around the world for the conference.
I was among 20 international speakers around the world who spoke alongside native aboriginal, and non-aboriginal people. My presentation in Quebec City was in front of over 300-plus indigenous tourism stakeholders and industry experts, including executives and leaders of national and international organisations, business and government where indigenous peoples are present.
Titled, Customised Eco Tourism in Zia and Mawae Tribes, my paper explored how the clan system is used to incorporate eco-tourism and other community development initiatives as a motivator to promoting the authenticity of tribal customs, as opposed to just a conventional tour packages for tourists.
And of course, I used the opportunity to introduce Papua New Guinea, Morobe province and our potential tourism destinations to the international indigenous communities and their networks around the world.
Today, the agency that I set up those years back to help my people called Culture Link PNG, has established networking partners with World Indigenous Tourism Alliance (WINTA) and its worldwide networks. My regional networking with New Zealand Maori operators and Western Australian Indigenous Tourism Operators Council (WAITOC), allowed me to establish partnerships with Huron Wendat and other eleven native nations of Quebec who showed how well established their tourism products were, ranging from, tour packages, native restaurants, performing groups, culture merchandising and crafts shops to larger indigenous owned business.
Other important networking partners include: Johnny Edmonds, the executive director of World Indigenous Tourism Alliance, (WINTA) Ben Sherman chairman of WINTA who is from the Oglata Lakoat Sioux Nation, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota USA, and Robert Taylor, Chairman of Western Australian Tourism Indigenous Tourism Operators Council (WAITOC) who were keen on networking with us in Morobe .
My trip to icy cold Quebec was funded by Quebec Aboriginal Tourism Associations, its partners including World Indigenous Tourism Alliance. (WINTA)
Meeting Native Immersion.
During my stint in Canada I also met a very important partner who had similar interest in photography, Aurélie Mayoke Debusschère founder and director of Native Immersion, a public relations agency for indigenous people, (www,nativeimmersion.com). Several correspondence and discussions on networking and collaboration developed. After a year of the meeting and ongoing correspondence, I was asked if I wanted to represent the agency in PNG which I agreed. My role is to network with government, tour operators, and agencies to promote the Native Immersion vision of connecting international responsible travel experiences and vice versa. Native Immersion looks forward to telling the story of PNG tourism products in Canada, Europe and Germany and around the world.
I believe that tourism has multiplier effects, and if managed well it can benefit a wider community and more stakeholders.
Existing customs and traditions can be utilised in unique ways to promote an authentic tourism product. Native Immersion can tell a true story of our authentic PNG products, though, photography, film, social media, and physical representations in trade shows and exhibitions overseas.
Culture Link PNG continues to promote culture tourism and the arts in Morobe Province, and believe that the government of Morobe and PNG and respective agencies will continue the support its work through recognition and endorsement of its independent drive to promote Morobe Tourism to the World.
As a grassroots tourism agent, we look forward to working with the Tourism Promotion Authority, and Morobe Division of Commerce Tourism, and the private sector to continue promoting Lae and Morobe as a truly unique spot in PNG.
- Maine Winny is director of Culture Link PNG LTD.