September 16th 2014 | The next generation of Papua New Guineans. They danced, they sang, they laughed, they stood proud in their vibrant traditional bilas (attire) from the mountains to the sea, united as one.
This is the time of year I always look forward to. I love to see children in their traditional wear and try to guess which part of PNG they are from. Its amazing that one country can have so many different traditional attire, beliefs and customs and not to mention the different 800 plus languages!!!
When Independence Day comes around parents put so much effort, pride and love into each child’s traditional attire. From the skirts made of grass or tree bark to the millions of tiny shells that adorn the necklaces around their necks.
Below are some of my favorite photographs of the day. If you want to see more check out My New Guinea Facebook page :)
We all made our way to the beach and waited for our guest to arrive. In the distance a school of tuna were in a feeding frenzy, we could see the rapid paddle strokes from the fishermen on the nearby canoes trying to get to the action.
Still no sign of Andrew our guest for the night. We looked out to the horizon, the suns rays blazing making our eyes water. Then we saw him. A silhouette in the distance heading straight for us. After 10 long hours of Kayaking straight across Kimbe Bay from Walindi Plantation Resort he had finally reached us at Kwalakesi Village, his first stop over for the night.
Andrew is on a Kayaking Adventure of a different kind as i later found out. He is a teacher with Expedition Class, an online adventure learning program. He reminded me a little of Ms Frizzle from the Magic School Bus taking the children on adventures thru his online Live updates. His latest lesson is Volcanoes!! and what a better way than kayaking from the West to the East of of New Britain…the Island of Volcanoes.
I watched him pack his kayak the next morning thinking to myself how awesome is this adventure all in the name of education! I don’t remember school being this fun. I could imagine the looks on the villagers faces as they discover him setting up camp on their beach for the night, the excitement in their eyes, wanting to know who he was and what he was doing and where on earth he was going. I could imaging the children swimming at the beach running up to the village to notify the elders of this man on a funny looking canoe, the story about the “masta” (white )man kayaking from Kimbe to Rabaul on the Island of New Britain is one that will not die around the village camp fires any time soon……….what an adventure!
The last time I saw a Fire Dance from the Baining region of East New Britain Province was when I was 8 years old in my home village, Matupit. I remember feeling the heat of the fire on my face and the cool sensation of tears running down my cheeks, as my eyes watered from starring too long at the giant men in masks, dancing in the flames. It was an extraordinary experience and I couldn’t pass the chance of seeing the Bainings do the Fire Dance once more when they performed at the West New Britain Mask Festival 2013.
I was just mere meters away from the dancers. I could hear the leaves that were wrapped around them go Shhhhhhhh Shhhhhhh as they danced frenziedly in and around the flames of the fire. The crowd would scream anxiously when the fire dancers spent a little too long in the flames kicking the flaming firewood around. At one stage a dancer with what looked like a mask shaped like a dog with its tongue hanging out danced his way right pass me, I could smell the strong smell of a local plant used in many traditional dances, when its leaves are crushed it expels a strong aroma, the Tolai people of East New Britain call it “Karangon” but it is known by many names.
I wondered how the dancers could see thru their masks as they danced their way weaving in and out of the fire just brushing past each other. The feeling I felt watching was truly mixed with fear, awe and excitement but the one feeling that was overpowering the most was pride. I’m part of a country that is so diverse in Cultural & Traditional practices and I pray that in the future my grandchildren and great grand children will get a chance to see the Baining Fire Dance, just as I and the pass generations have experienced.