By Guest Lecturer Dr. Ken Beattie
The amazing island paradise of Papua New Guinea is rife with contrasts. Papua New Guinea, or PNG as many refer to it, is the eastern portion of the island of new Guinea. The western region is simply known as Western Papua and is part of Indonesia. Millions of years ago, when the seas and oceans were shallower, a natural connection between this island and Northern Australia existed at the Torres Strait. As ancient as time itself, Papua New Guinea is still relatively untouched, especially in the outer villages and in the highlands, and makes for unique and exotic adventures.
In Port Moresby, our excursion transported us, as if back in time or perhaps to another world, to an actual village as well as to a cultural village designed for visitors. As experienced travelers we don’t expect things to be the least like they are at home – after all this is why we travel, is it not? The functional village was beyond fascinating! We were greeted by the local dignitary who explained what we were about to experience in his village. The large, grassy field where we arrived was lined with a great many villagers, young and old, all out to see the visitors, or “dim dim” as we were referred to. I think that we were quite a spectacle of amusement with our cell phones, cameras, pale skin and profuse “glow” of perspiration.
The sound of a conch shell announced the beginning of a very curious spectacle. Several warriors emerged dressed in leaves, grass skirts, feathers and bone amulets all hanging on to a large woven net. Suddenly, a creature emerged from a pile of leaves to much shouting and squealing. This character was festooned with adornments and was representative of a wild boar, the hunters’ catch of the day. We learned that the males of Papua New Guinea do the hunting and fishing, and the women traditionally take care of pretty much everything else. The boar round-up finished with the poor beast ceremonially speared and the rest is left to your imagination.
Scattered throughout this large open village space were dancers and tribes-people from surrounding islands and visiting villages. Each performed traditional dances and created their own lively form music which completed this spectacular cultural fair. The village women shared a snack of local fruit, beautifully displayed under the shade of an enormous Polynesian chestnut tree – a truly a beautiful setting. Young boys demonstrated their prowess of paddling their canoes to the barked instructions of a male village elder. The day flew by as we learned about the Papuan lifestyle and traditions of the villages, but alas eventually we needed to board the buses. But what a send-off they gave us – the entire dance troupe and many villages accompanied and danced the entire entourage of “dim dim” to the waiting buses. Quite an unforgettable day in Papua New Guinea.
About Dr. Ken Beattie
With a horticultural career spanning four decades, Ken has become one of Canada’s most notable and approachable resources in the plant world. He has developed award-winning television programs including the documentary series, “The Earth’s Garden,” and also served as host of the live Canadian television series, “Get Growing.” Join Ken on board this summer and fall: