|The bust of John Gunther, the first Vice-Chancellor of the University of Papua New Guinea.|
It is always nice to serve one’s society as a chronicler of events, day after day – all that accumulating into several volumes to be stored away in the libraries and archives for the future generations. No matter how small and insignificant a certain occurrence may be, these need to be recorded.
Then you come across that problem or should we rather say that phenomenon of “publish or perish”, but in our case and for this article, at least, “publish or bust.”
Of course, it is not at all annoying or insulting to “bust” somebody – some important personality, for example. In many respects this is always the most fashionable and worthy thing to do.
By “busting” somebody we mean creating a portrait of that important personality through a sculpture representing his head and shoulders. The bust is then placed at a special location where it will serve as a reminder that a given environment we find ourselves in must carry with it a certain air of sanctity about it. We treat such a place with respect and reverence.
Last Thursday 14th April storyboard had a pleasant conversation with the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Papua New Guinea, Professor Ross Hynes, about the need there is of beautifying the university with, among other items, statues, busts and plaques, all commemorating personalities of importance who have lived and served this important place of higher learning in our country.
In that conversation the following were noted. If there is a statue visible around the campus grounds then the chances are that the onlooker may know who that statue represents without the necessity of going to a library to check for details. That statue may remind a student, for example, how much contribution to the university that personality had done in his or her time. It may also enable a stranger to realize that the place being visited is indeed an important place to be in. It will also help humble that mind which might want to doubt the existence of the university as a place of higher learning at all. But above all, the statue or bust may enable an individual to come up with a thought that he or she is also an important person present there at the same grounds of the university campus.
What prompted storyboard to seek that conference with the Vice-Chancellor was the way we at the university community might be lagging behind in the areas of properly honouring those who have served the university since its inception in their capacity as vice-chancellors, professors, prominent academics and men and women of renown, once upon a time, and at that campus. Surely these men and women deserve some gesture of commendation: a plaque in their honour, a bust or a statue.
The other and much pressing thing that made storyboard want to seek that conference was the way we reacted, as a community, to the passing of Professor Ulli Beier. Perhaps we did not respond quick and timely enough and in a noticeable way. Or perhaps some of us felt that just a few exchanges of emails when first hearing of the news was not enough. But it is true: something more needed to be done, both on short and long term basis.
At the moment all the university can boast of are the portraits of all the previous vice-chancellors displayed in the council room. But even that space will be filled up shortly. And when that happens we shall have that pleasant opportunity of turning to the overwhelming significance of busts and statues around the campus.
Aside from the portraits of the vice-chancellors in the council room the only bust that the university can pride itself in is one of John Gunther, the first Vice-Chancellor. This is displayed at the counter of the periodicals section of the Michael Somare Library. From that convenient spot the bust keeps vigil somewhat on the students poring over books a few metres away. It also poses as an overwhelming presence of the mind that helped start up the university. Other than John Gunther’s none seem to be seen or, speaking fearfully, forthcoming.
But the Vice-Chancellor said something in that conversation that now sets storyboard’s mind at rest. It is part and parcel of university policy that important men and women who have served the university over the years will be honoured with such little items of art work, within buildings and all around the campus, including the botanical gardens, if possible. By which remark we understand and appreciate the fact that this area of both academic and leisurely preoccupation will be included in the university’s current and future budgetary allocations. It will mean a lot of work for the artistic crowd at the campus. But it will be a gracious one at that, where families such as those of John Gunther or Ulli Beier will feel rewarded with the thought that the efforts those who have gone before them were not in vain.
As a result of that conference with the Vice-Chancellor and considering the historical significance of artistic activity such as these storyboard proposed to some of his colleagues last week that a committee be set up to take care of this side of the university’s work. The response received was enthusiastic and it is hoped that membership will extend to those outside the university community as well.
The task of this committee envisioned will be similar to the National Events Council once set up by Peter Barter, but limited to the activities of the academia. However, as storyboard types this he hears a few grunts here and there that such committees usually work in isolation for a while and then dwindle away. But listen again to the drone of the very number coming over to join us.
HAPPY EASTER WEEKEND!
HAPPY EASTER WEEKEND!