The 2012 cultural festival season in Papua New Guinea is now in full swing, running from June until November each year, offering intrepid travellers an authentic PNG experience only a few hours flight from home.
Important aspects of Papua New Guinea culture, such as tribal dance and song (known as Sing-Sings), elaborate masks and costumes and traditional rituals take place at these annual events – which still today only draw a small crowd of fascinated tourists.
Peter Vincent, CEO of PNG Tourism Promotion Authority says the festivals provide genuine insight into the PNG traditions as the events are not actually held for tourist entertainment.
“There are important meanings behind each of the events that are taking place in PNG over the next couple of months and these festivals will continue to happen in local communities whether tourists attend or not,” he said.
“This is what makes it such a unique experience for overseas travellers – they get to see the real PNG in all its glory.”
Festivals such as the National Mask Festival in Rabaul and the Mt Hagen Show are slowly growing in notoriety, but there are smaller festivals like the Kenu and Kundu Festival in Alotau, the eastern tip of Papua New Guinea and the Crocodile Festival in Ambunti that are virtually unknown to tourists – providing that highly sort after – ‘last frontier’ experience.
While some festivals are not publicised and known only through local word of mouth, there are a growing number of events that Australians can research and attend with organised tours.
Kenu & Kundu Festival 2– 4 November, Alotau, Milne Bay Province
Canoes and the Kundu drums are a significant aspect of the lives of the people of Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea. Both the Canoe and the Kundu were widely used in olden times in ceremonies and rituals and were meticulously crafted from special woods under strict customs, to derive the best results and to appease the gods.
Crocodile Festival- 8-9 August 2012, Ambunti District, East Sepik Province
The Sepik River is home to one of the world's largest populations of fresh and saltwater crocodiles. In respect for the strong bond shared between locals and crocodiles, this festival marks the coming of age ceremonies where many village men are given tattoos resembling crocodile skin. This WWF supported festival is intended to increase enthusiasm for conservation while maintaining local traditions.
Hiri Moale Festival- 14-17 September 2012, Port Moresby
The Hiri Moale Festival celebrates and re-creates the epic trading journeys of the Motuans of the Central Province. The voyages started when Edai Siabo of Boera village befriended a sea god and built the first lakatoi, or dugout canoe. Historically, these journeys contributed to the development of PNG's national language, Hiri Motu.
The best way for visitors to get off the beaten path is to celebrate PNG's dance, music, and artistic traditions alongside the locals. These remote festivals celebrate PNG's vibrant artistic heritage:
National Mask Festival – 18-21 July 2012, Kokopo, East New Britain Province
Warwagira Mask Festival- 13-17 July, 2012, Kokopo, East New Britain
Kavieng District Cultural Show- 21-23 July, 2012, Kavieng
Mt Hagen Show-10-12 August 2012, Mt Hagen, Western Highlands Province
Goroka Cultural Show- 14- 16 September, 2012, Goroka, Eastern Highlands
PNG's many maritime themed events also celebrate the importance of wildlife and environment in PNG culture:
Tembin Shark Calling Festival - 20- 23 July, 2012, Tembin Village
Tefa Canoe Festival- 27-28 Spetember, 2012, Boang Island
For further information about PNG and its popular upcoming festivals and recommended tour operators visit www.papuanewguinea.travel