|Photo by Ketsin Robert.|
The National Cultural Commission has once again come to easing and soothing the woes of struggling Papua New Guinean writers, artists and musicians through the staging of its National Symposium on Culture and the Arts.
This was observed at the National Museum from 7th to 9th November, 2012, and in collaboration with the National Museum, the Melanesian Institute of Art and Culture, UNESCO, UOG and various institutional and private bodies in town.
Among the highlights of this event was the launching of the locally-made University of Goroka film “The Last Real Man” by the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Honourable Boka Kondra.
The main theme of the symposium was “harnessing the arts for national development”. Papers presented were therefore of a variety of subject matter, not wandering too far off from the theme, of course, although there were one or two powerful oratories of some value during the course of the whole program.
Themes covered at this three-day long symposium included the importance of culture and the arts in nation building, cultural industries and the challenges facing these, the actual development of cultural and creative industries, problems of copyright, promotion and marketing, capacity building, heritage and the cultural industries, views representing provincial perspectives and, finally, the work of the writers and artists themselves.
Many thought that the last session, appropriately titled “artists’ corner”, which was devoted to writers, artists, musicians and film makers and headed by this writer, was the fiery one of the lot. We’ve heard the best of oratories then. Nonetheless the whole program was seriously observed and with many new things learnt within the world of arts and letters.
An interesting detail noted during the week was that of Professor John Waiko’s assertion and insistence upon the fact that while we still believe we have 800 languages there are, in fact, 1,100 plus pure languages in Papua New Guinea today, with a few others yet to be discovered. But, warned the professor, on yet another matter of relevance, if we do believe that we have that number of languages in our country we must also provide material evidence as scholars do throughout the world that we have been here on our island nation for the last 50,000 years.
Dr Steven Winduo speaking on the importance of arts and culture in nation building pointed out that there had been so much dug out of our country by way of cultural research and knowledge with very little given back in return. And yet these are crucial elements constituting our sense of culture, nationalism and cultural inheritance or identity.
Another speaker on this topic, Mari Ellingson, spoke of music as a significant aspect of our lives, touching as well on the problems of copyright and pirating of local musical products or in simply dealing with the industry itself in a manner that often brought little reward to the musician as an artist. “Music comes from the heart,” said Ms Ellingson, “the spirit, the soul.” Just as any other cultural unit it, too, needed support, especially in funding. Examples cited, among others, was the lack of facilities found at UPNG to cater for both staff and students of that institution.
Aside from the intellectual debates and discussions that went on there were poetry readings and music provided in the evenings, culminating each day's proceedings. It was fun kind of a symposium, thanks to Dr Jacob Simet and his staff at NCC and to Dr Andrew Moutu for providing the venue and necessary facilities for the whole program.
But, as it is often said of them, “Where there are writers and artists there is much merriment and feasting.”