In the complex cultural melting pot of Papua New Guinea (PNG) it is very easy to be transfixed by the overwhelming, crazy, colourfulness of singsings but as I have spent time mesmerised by the rhythmic sound of the kundu drumming, the glistening bodies adorned with feathers, shells and foliage, and the evocative singing and chanting of the men and women, I have begun to notice the ever present fusion of deeply traditional culture and the inescapable modern world and the beauty of these worlds colliding.
The advantage of living in a country so different to your own is being able to take the time to scratch the surface to understand the people and the culture. Unlike just visiting and seeing a snapshot, being embedded in a community allows for you to see small details and get a deeper understanding of why things are the way that they are, even if you can’t comprehend the reasoning.
During a summer of singsings I’ve not just been capturing photos of the incredible painted faces, the elaborate headdresses, or the unusual body adornments but how the ever-encroaching modern world is impacting these traditional celebrations. My feeling is that it certainly doesn’t detract from the incredible spectacle and fierce pride displayed by the different singsing groups but shows the stark juxtaposition of age-old tradition and how far things have come for PNG in such a short time.
Looking back with a slightly uncertain expression is this little highlands boy draped in necklaces made of beads and pig tusks but with a flash of modern PNG across his headdress; old meets new.
In full, fierce highlands bilas (traditional dress) these warriors march with axes in hand and metal whistles in mouth.
This highlands style meri teams her amazing headdress with feather fringe with a pair of aviators.
These Hagen men sway in a hypnotic motion and march with spears but not without their connection to the modern world.
The Coca Cola generation
Hidden among the rustling, folded leaf skirts of these highlands women, this pikinini gazes out the huddle with his flash of red, blue and white face painting and his plastic coke bottle in hand.
Suck and blow
In an impressive effort this women is playing the pipe and smoking a cigarette!
Quite possibly one of my favourite photos, this simbu man happily takes my photo with his tablet and shows true tribal technology!
After a morning of dancing and singing in the hot sun you need to make sure that your make up is still in place and as a strongpela highlands man, nothing is more fitting to do that with than with a pink princess mirror.
Rolling some bruce
Taking a break, rolling a cigarette made of bruce the local tobacco and attempting to watch the festivities under his thick fringe of feathers.
Text message distraction
That moment when you are in the middle of a singsing and you need to answer a text message!
Sitting around with your PNG bruthas playing guitar while your boom box accompanies you with some heavy beats!
I do sometimes think that PNG is sponsored by Coca Cola as the branded singsing group from the Goroka Show in 2013 displayed to perfection. It is those moments when the groups relax that you capture them refreshing them with their fizzy fix when you are reminded that you haven’t gone back in time.
Ice cream cool down
Nothing says fearsome warrior quite like a man wearing rainbow coloured bilas, eating an ice cream!
Culture and modernity
This photograph displays the transformation within PNG culture perfectly. Covered in body paint made from clay with grass through his septum, this man stands next to the proud young woman in a polo shirt with her PNG flag and hat in complete contrast to his traditional attire. The one thing that is evident from both, and the aspect that I find so amazing, is the pride of the past and the future.