Tufi festival draws tourists

Ijivitari MP Richard Masere and Glenda Motani in traditional Airara attire of the Maisin tribe in Tufi District.

THE Tufi Tapa and Tattoo Cultural Festival is a perfect event to draw tourists from around the world. Into its second year, the show is already gaining popularity.
On the morning of Saturday, Nov 9, a tourist vessel True North arrived at the Tufi harbour in Northern with 36 tourists on board.
It was the first day of the two-day cultural festival and the tourists spent the day observing the cultural performances and took the opportunity to purchase artefacts.
The flights into Tufi were already fully booked as tourists arrived as early as Wednesday Nov 6 because there were only three flights a day, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
With the only resort Tufi Dive fully booked local guest houses were given opportunities to accommodate some of the participants.
The local media team were hosted at the Saidado Guest House across the bay from Tufi at Baga Village formerly a Bible translation centre.
Not until you get to stay in this guest house will you appreciate what Tufi has on offer and the media team will share their experiences in the next story of the Weekender.
The Tufi Tapa Tattoo cultural Festival this year was bigger and better with the increased number of groups participating.
Beauty quest
And the highlight was the beauty quest which increased from two contestants last year to 12 this year. Tufi Primary School grade eight student Naomi Scholastic Ikirima was crowned the new beauty queen for the Tufi Tapa Tattoo Cultural Festival taking over the reign from Beverly Gumagara.
Ikirima was excited to participate in the beauty quest to represent her people.
She was happy to be selected the queen for the Tapa Tattoo Cultural Festival and said she wants to be a forester in future to protect the environment.
Gumagara who handed over the title to Ikirima said her participation was not only for the title but to promote the culture of the Tufi people.
She acknowledged the organisers for introducing such an event to promote the unique culture.
“The beauty quest is to encourage our young Tufi girls to be proud of our culture and identity.
“It is also to showcase that Tufi is the origin of Tapa and Tattoo which was being displayed through the cultural festival to draw all Tufians from border to border to build a community spirit,” Gumagara said.
Logistics manager of mv True North Simon Tewson who once worked with the Tufi Dive Resort said they had scheduled their trip into Tufi to coincide with the cultural festival.
PNG tours
“I used to be the manager at the Tufi Dive Resort and so when she (mv True North) first came to PNG about 15 years ago she has since been spending two months in the country.
“We bring international tourists over and we do five trips in two months.
“There are about 36 passengers so we do the Sepik, New Hanover, Kavieng, and for the last three years now we have been going to Bougainville.
“We cover Alotau and Mortlock Islands, we have been pretty much everywhere in PNG,” he said.
Tewson said when they first started 14 years ago, it took three or four years but they’ve had people on board who had been to PNG on board the ship four to five times.
“We knew about the cultural show, it worked in really well for us to be here and we are really happy to have attended the show, it’s a very good experience.
“When we are here we also do diving and snorkelling so it’s great,” he said.
Tewson said a lot of the tourists come into PNG and expect to see tropical beaches and good snorkelling and diving spots but what impresses them most is the cultural shows.
“I’ve been up here all my life so I ensure that when we go into the villages they are paid properly if we are using their resources and all the places that we go to also always welcome us back.
“We do a lot of donations including generators for power and other resources to the village people and it’s a win-win situation,” he said.
The vessel has a chopper on board which takes tourists to various locations. While it was berthed at Tufi, some tourists were flown into Isurava along the Kokoda Track as part of their programme.
“From that little ship, it is very famous in Western Australia because we come here bigger ships come to PNG,” he said.
Tourist Kim Kertesz said he was very happy to be at the show and was able to buy lots of gifts to take home.
Masere revives festival
When Ijivitari MP Richard Masere decided to revive the festival after it was introduced some years back he had the support of Alotau MP Charles Abel to have the Kenu and Kundu Festival in Alotau followed by the Tufi Tapa Tattoo Festival in Tufi.
Abel flew into Tufi on a chopper last year and together both members launched the cultural show.
Masere who officially opened the show two weeks ago urged the people to work hard and prove that they were capable of managing and growing the Tufi Tapa Tattoo Culture Festival.
He was happy to pass on the responsibility to the people.
“I want to encourage you all, work with us prove to us that you are capable of managing and growing this show and building our young people to appreciate our culture.
“Many of our sponsors are supporting this cultural show not because it is called the Tufi Tapa Tattoo cultural show but many of this people are supporting us today because they believe in my leadership.
“They believe that we are accountable, transparent honest, equitable and we follow the rule of law of this country,” he said.
Masere said the culture show which was initiated in 2005 could not be continued because of lack of funding and poor political support.
“Our cultures and traditions are fading because of Western influence; we are slowly forgetting who we are and what we are.
“Last year when we relaunched the cultural show we made a commitment that we will continue to support it for this term of parliament to make show we continue to preserve, develop and grow our culture our heritage and tradition so our children can be proud of it.
“As long as I remain your member, we will continue to promote the festival,” he said.
Popular singer and artist Alanlee Herove (known as Sauga) who visited Tufi for the first time loved it.
“Tapa and Tattoo (show) is beautiful and unique. It is also our traditional trade mark that the whole world must know about Tufi Tapa tattoo.
“It is outstanding because it is an art naturally designed by the Tufi people.
“The festival is mainly to maintain our culture and to transfer our culture to the younger generation in Tufi and Northern,” he said.
Olive Mota a local from the area said the show was bigger and better this year.
“Organising was way ahead drawing tourists from cruise ship on time to visit Tufi and the event.
“Crowd just beat the expectations. This is one of the most experiences never had for local people. It is surely changing mindsets of people to tap into standard of marketing our diverse culture abroad.
“Definitely, next year and going forward we expect more changes. The best have not been seen yet.
Tufi is hidden paradise. We welcome more people to come along to experience our unique culture,” she said.
Organising committee deputy chairman Stanislaus Ivahupa said the show was bigger and better coordinated.
He said the number of traditional dancing groups had increased from about 10 last year to 27 this year.
“We had planned for 22 groups but an additional five turned up so we accepted them all for the sake of promoting the culture and traditions of the Oro people.
“People came in big numbers and the committee ensured that the people were looked after and sent off to their villages.
“We anticipate a bigger and better show next year,” Ivahupa said.
Tourists visit PNG because of the tropical beaches and good snorkelling and diving spots but the cultural festivals such as the Tufi Tapa and Tattoo shows are a bonus.
Tufi is hidden paradise and a must see. When you get to attend the Tapa Tattoo Cultural Festival you will appreciate what it has on offer.
Next week: Our stay at Saidodo Guest House.