Rich fusion of wildlife and culture

Girls from Daga will be joining in the coming Kundu and Digaso Festival

LAKE Kutubu is a national treasure.
Located in the Kikori River Basin, Lake Kutubu region forms part of a vast protected area that stretches from parts of Enga, Nipa-Kutubu in Southern Highlands, Komo-Magarima in Hela to Kikori in Gulf.
It is home to more than 200,000 people from predominantly rural communities with very diverse and rich wildlife, amazing landscapes and cultures.
However, the region’s unique biodiversity and significant landscape is increasingly under threat from unsustainable land and resource use practices.
Conservation organisation, WWF is working with partners to support communities to respond to such threats by raising awareness and education through local initiatives such as the annual Kutubu Kundu and Digaso Festival.
Kafuri Yaro, WWF Programme Development Manager in Papua New Guinea described the Kikori River Basin as a 2.2million-hectare densely-forested area rich in fauna and flora biodiversity and very remote part of Papua New Guinea. WWF is therefore working in partnership with government, development partners, the private sector and local communities to promote sustainable natural resource management practices and protection to encourage empowered resilient communities into the future.
The Kutubu Kundu and Digaso Festival (KKDF) celebrates the two different types of kundu drums; the short headed and fish tail kundu which are of ceremonial significance to the people. There are scared spiritual rituals and beliefs locals perform with these kundus
Digaso is a crude oil extract from a native tree Campnosperma found in the region. It is an essential oil (digaso oil) extracted from the bark of the tree used in body paints for traditional ceremonial dance, medicine and as an ornament.
Since its inception in 2011, the KKDF has provided opportunities for more than 40 local communities from Bosavi, Nipa-Kutubu, Kikori, Hela and throughout PNG. About 60 per cent of the participants are women.
Janet Bariki represents women who see the festival as an opportunity to make some money.
“We sell food at the festival which allows us to buy food, pay for school fees and school supplies for our children.”
Joshua Kamo a local arts and craft artist likes how this annual event promotes the message of conservation.

A male dancer from Bosavi at a previous festival.

“I am able to make all these things from materials I find in my forest. I didn’t buy them from the shops. In the future, children will also grow up to find these materials in the forest- that is why I am a big supporter of the festival,” Kamo says.
The festival brings together participants and visitors within PNG and abroad, with the opportunity to share and understand cultures and foster friendships.
Henrik Moeller Nielsen from Denmark was thrilled to be part the previous cultural event.
“I have travelled all over the world almost 100 countries, and I have never been to a place like this before. You can feel the people and experience different tribes and I would rate this as one of the top 10 experiences around the world. It is very special, and it goes straight to the heart, said Henrik
Silvia Holzhammer, from Switzerland learnt about the festival through a PNG tourism promotion website.
“I came all the way from Switzerland to attend this festival and I am super excited, and it is amazing, the energy you feel and all the different colours, people get together. I am truly amazed by it,” said Silvia
The festival is a unique partnership that works for the local communities, tourism enterprises, government agencies that support environment and conservation, culture and tourism, conservation organisations like WWF and others working in the region and is managed and run by a local organising committee.
This year’s event, based on the theme Strongim Wok Bung Wantaim, takes place from Sept 19 to 21 at Daga Village, Southern Highlands.
The festival theme affirms the call for greater collaboration.
An array of colourful traditional singsings, fascinating cultural demonstrations and canoe racing on Lake Kutubu will be on show.
For more information on the event, email: or visit

  • Story and pictures courtesy of WWF PNG

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