Inaugural Kutubu Kundu and Digaso festival a kaleidoscope of color and splendor

01/11/2011 14:56

By Steven Gimbo of WWF

Daga women from PNG's Southern Highlands province playing a love song with their traditional bamboo Jews Harps.

Picture by Steven Gimbo.

It was a kaleidoscope of breathtaking colors and splendor at the inaugural Kutubu Kundu and Digaso festival in Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands province.

The festival was initiated by global conservation organization World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to revive some of PNG’s lost cultures and to highlight the significance of the natural and cultural heritage of the area. The festival links eco-tourism and traditional-cultural-lingual preservation with environmental conservation and sustainable livelihoods.

It would also help to promote the significance of Kutubu’s rich biodiversity, preserve its cultural heritage and promote partnerships in sustainable resource development and biodiversity conservation.

The village of Daga hosted the colorful celebration of traditional culture and custom last weekend. Visitors who attended the festival returned to home impressed by the colour and splendor of the different singsing groups amidst the beats of Kundu drums and rattles.

Dancers from Daga in PNG's Southern Highlands province bring color to the event with their specially designed Kundu

drums. Picture by Steven Gimbo.

“This festival is a first of its kind, because it is held right in the village where people’s life is as it is. With our two men’s long-houses, and all the women’s-houses, we thought hosting the festival here would be a good idea,” said Geoff Muri, a community leader and treasurer of the festival committee.

And Mr Muri couldn’t be less forthright. Daga village’s layout is such that it is strategically built as any village would be in the old days. The main villages (Daga 1 and Daga 2) sit on a small steep hill with the men’s longhouses starting at the top center of the hill and ending at the other end of the village. At the sides are the women houses, lining up at both sides to the end of the village but never going further than the long-house.

The festival was staged in Daga 2, at the western end of the village where there is a slightly flat piece of land representing an amphitheatre. .

Groups came from as far as Tari with the famous Huli Wigman, Komo Magarima and the untouched Bosavi. The Lake Kutubu community, including hillside and lakeside, also sent in three singsing groups.

The performances by the seven singsing groups compliment the numerous displays of traditional practices. These included sago-making, bamboo Jews Harp performances, traditional trap-making for rats, bandicoot, pigs and cassowaries, mat and basket-weaving, tapa-cloth production, arts and craft displays, fire-making, traditional spinning tops and ancient salt-making techniques captivated the crowd.

Visitors to the show were made welcome. There was plenty of space in the longhouse for the male visitors and plenty of rooms available at the women-houses. The advantages of that, as visitors found out later in the evenings, were the fine displays of night dancing and singing. But even then the stampeding, singsing and beats of the Kundu drum did not stop ensuring the visitors were entertained for two consecutive nights.

All the visitors, mostly public servants, neighboring Kutubu villagers and workers from Oil Search Limited (OSL) and the PNG LNG Project enjoyed the festival.

The famous Huli dancers from PNG's Southern Highlands province was also a star attraction. Picture by Steven Gimbo.

According to Hahudi Farobo, Chairman of the Kutubu Foe Cultural Committee the show next year will still be held in Daga village and will be bigger and better “because we now have the experience, capacity and the motivation”.

He said he was able to discover some past cultural issues at the inaugural festival which he did not know exist and was proud that the festival enabled villagers to practice and pass on their languages, traditions, cultures and customs to their children

Mr Farobo and other executives of the festival committee thanked WWF for initiating, supporting and facilitating the festival and expressed their gratitude to Bank South Pacific (BSP), OSL, ExxonMobil, the Kutubu Special Purpose Authority and the Community Development Institute Foundation for sponsoring the event.

WWF has been working in various projects sites in PNG since 1995 and focuses on linking community action, science and effective policy to ensure the protection and sustainable use of forests, freshwater and marine resources across the island of New Guinea.