Transforming society through art

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday 25th November 2011

THE arts have proven to be powerful instruments in advocating development issues around the world over many centuries.
From novels and theatre performances to musical compositions and sculpture, the world of arts impacts masses of people, portraying varied messages in unique ways.
Papua New Guinea has its own development issues as big challenges, particularly in the areas of mineral resources, forestry, fisheries, environment, religion, politics and sport.
These challenges have been showcased through the arts – literary, visual and performing.
Many Papua New Guineans have recognised the power of arts to transcend these challenges in different ways.
Meanwhile, expatriates visiting or residing in PNG have also made attempts in supporting or contributing to the arts in the country, thus aiming to depict the cultures and traditions of the local people and the changes that go on within them.
One such person is Kiara Worth from South Africa.
Worth is a consultant engaged with the PNG LNG Project, working mostly as a writer and photographer, based in Port Moresby.
She has helped produce numerous publications that provide information about the Project to a wide variety of communities.
Since coming to PNG in January last year, she has had the opportunity to travel to many regions throughout the country.
Worth says she loves visiting rural areas and engaging with people, as well as the city life in Port Moresby.
“I felt at home when I first came to PNG as many aspects of life are very similar to South Africa. I knew that I would fit in very well.
“I absolutely love PNG; it’s one of the best places I’ve ever been to,” she said during an interview early this month.
Apart from writing and photography, Worth has a passion for theatre performance and music as well.
She is attached to the Moresby Arts Theatre and has been in the cast for the musical plays Godspell and The Rock of Ages.
Most recently, she was been involved in producing a new music album with one of PNG’s finest music artists, Robert Oeka.
Worth, who attended university in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, but grew up all around the country, is expected to sing the song “Solwara Mangi”, which was previously sung by Solomon Island artist, Sharzy, as Solwara Meri, originally composed by Oeka.
A New Zealander, Fraser McDonald, is also involved in producing the album and is expected to sing the song “Mangi Mosbi”.
The new album is expected to be released early next month.
Worth, 28, says just like any other country in the world, PNG has got social challenges to overcome.
“PNG is a unique and interesting country. There are strong cultures and traditional ways of living, but the country is rapidly developing as well. There are many challenges and we need to ensure that society evolves and changes to make a better society for everyone,” she said.
She pointed out that the issue of abuse against women was serious, in which countless women were being affected.
“The arts can be a powerful way to transform the lives of people. When individuals change, then so too does society.
“The arts is an extremely powerful way to discuss and reflect on what society can be. People identify with the arts, especially in PNG where there are such powerful art forms culturally. The challenge is to use this art to build society and this is what we need to focus on.”
Former executive editor of The National newspaper, late Ian Boden who was a lecturer of mine at Divine Word University in Madang, was very vocal on the subject of arts either in his daily editorials or in discussions with students.
Boden was involved with a few others in the early days of the National Broadcasting Corporation, putting together creative radio dramas and other entertaining materials for listeners.
He was also involved in putting together plays depicting PNG culture, at the University of Papua New Guinea and other venues.
Some Papua New Guineans have also written creative novels, short stories, autobiographies and poems, which provide good insight for policy-makers and fellow citizens.
These include Sir Paulias Matane, Sir Michael Somare, late Sir Ignatius Kilage, late Sir Vincent Eri and Tiri Kuimbakul.
Editorials of newspapers, radio and television documentaries and other media sources have also expressed ideas for society.
Worth said the South African experience had taught her that change can happen in PNG.
“It won’t transform overnight but there is opportunity for change,” she said.
She holds a Masters in Agriculture from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, with a focus on using theatre to discuss social and rural development, and environmental issues.
She is now back in South Africa and will return to PNG early next year.