Sir Michael, Rocky and that K50 note


IN 1998, the portrait of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare appeared on the reverse side of the K50 bank note to honour his role in attaining independence for PNG.
But according Rocky Roe, the photographer who took the picture, Sir Michael told him that he did not like it.
Rickey remembers that Sir Michael described it as not one of his best portraits.
The main design elements on the front are the Parliament House and the national crest of PNG – the Bird of Paradise sitting on a Kundu (drum) and a spear.
The main design elements on the back are his portrait and masks from Bainings in East New Britain, the Orokolo from Gulf, the Huli of Southern Highlands and the Tubuan of East New Britain. Also featured are a Malagan mask of New Ireland, a Karkar shield, totem poles and artists interpretations of Tapa from Oro, Central and Morobe.
Rocky is from the old guard of photographers whose pictures are being shared on social media after the passing of Sir Michael last week.

Sir Michael told Rocky:
“ It’s not one of your better portraits.”

Considered one of the best photographers in the country, his work is being sought after and his picture of Sir Michael is a tale of its own.
Rocky was in Parliament in 1999 at the B-wing taking pictures of the halls for a book on Parliament House. He was perched on a ladder busy doing his work when he heard a voice saying: “Rocky what are you doing?”
“I turned and there was Sir Michael peering at me over his glasses. I stepped down the ladder and we had a chat about work and what I was doing in Parliament House.
“As he was leaving, he asked me: Have you seen the new K50 note? I said yes, I have. I have used the money.
“Sir Michael turned to me and said: Did you know that you took that picture?”
Before Sir Michael left Rocky, he gave him a parting shot: “It’s not one of your better portraits.”
Rocky did not know what to say.
“A couple of weeks later, I met one of his daughters and told her the story. She burst out laughing and told me: Rocky, he was winding you up! We both had a good laugh when I realised that he actually liked the picture.”
Rocky took the picture when Sir Michael was the prime minister between 1982 and 1985.
He remembers Sir Michael as “someone you could have a chat with”.
“Back in the 70s, there was a nine-hole golf course in East Boroko where Caritas and Don Bosco are now. The Somares had a house there. I was trying to take pictures at the golf course, when I was motioned over by a guard. They told me someone inside wanted to see me.
“When I walked in, I was surprised to see Sir Michael and Lady Veronica getting ready for lunch.
“Sir Michael called me over saying we were going to have lunch. He served me lunch and we had a good chat before I left to continue my work.
“I have fond memories of taking his pictures and I am glad to have met him and known him.”
And that portrait at the back of the K50 note will always remind Rocky of that conversation with Sir Michael.