Since December my obsession with white grass hasn’t diminished. There’s just something particularly captivating and majestic about a head topped with snow coloured hair. Quite often when I’m driving in a car or sat at a singsing, it’s the frosty ‘fros that catch my eye.
I couldn’t help but follow up with a sequel to my earlier white grass photo series to share the beauty of these snow-topped heads that I’ve spotted on my adventures.
I’ve always found it quite funny how people get obsessed with preserving their youth. My newfound white grass, which is slowly sprouting in my eyebrows and starting to appear in my hair makes me happy, my own natural glitter. And when I look at this lady with her alabaster hair, with radiance glowing from the inside out, it reminds me that it is perfectly fine to embrace getting older and the wisdom, knowledge and smile lines that it brings.
Sometimes you can’t help but be captivated by a face and as soon as I spotted this man sitting under a shady tree, at Angau hospital in Lae, I was fascinated. This charming old man welcomed me with a beaming, toothless smile and with the most surprising spoken English. I think that it was the contrast of the modern and the traditional in him that interested me; his clean, white polo shirt and thick, modern rimmed glasses that were held on by string, combined with his stretched earlobes and colourful highlands bilum.
At the end of a two-day story gathering trip to some remote island communities in Morobe, we dropped some of our crew back to their homes on a palm fringed island. The whole family flooded to the beach to welcome home the crew and among the bustle of people was this clearly doted upon, bubu mama (grandma). With bubus gathered around the hem of her meri blaus she looked into the boat at us, slightly unsure, slightly protective but simply stunning with her light, wispy, white head of hair.
Kange is the Tok Ples word for a man from Hagen. On the road story gathering in Western Highlands, it was a fleeting moment on the side of the road when the team stopped for buai that I spotted kange Hagen. The urban legends that are told of fierce, unfriendly folk in the highlands are simply not true. From my experience it is the warm, smiley expressions from wise and knowing faces that are synonymous from this remote part of Papua New Guinea.
Out in a village called Khusen, an hour up the North Coast from Madang, it is easy to feel like you are a million miles from anywhere. I sometimes liken living in PNG to feeling like you are on the moon, as you can feel so far away from things. In this community, Voluntary Service Overseas was conducting a baseline survey for its gender based violence project and I spotted this smiley lady taking part in the group discussion. It always amazes me that no matter what the situation, people here are so incredibly resilient and no matter the struggles of life they still wear a smile on their face with great pride.
Well what can I say? I can imagine there will be a lot of beard envy after seeing this man. At singsings there is so much to be amazed by, from headdresses adorned with full birds of paradise or like this coastal man’s, incredibly intricate detail in the elements that create it, telling a story about where he is from and his culture. But really it is his long, twisted beard that is the showstopper; no matter how many pig tusks, it is his white beard that caught my attention.
And it really wouldn’t be a proper singsing without people of all ages dressing up in their bilas, singing and dancing together. One of PNGs most wonderful qualities is the absolute pride and commitment to retaining age-old customs and cultures. Seeing young and old dressed in traditional clothes, singing and dancing with songs that have been passed on for generations is one of the most evocative experiences that you can ever have. Nen is Tok Ples for Mama in Madang and this meri is coastal to the core.
And yet another smile but this time from the market place, where a market mama sits selling her handicrafts. It’s so lovely to sit and tell stories with the ladies in the market who work so hard in the hot sun, selling their produce, but who are always so warm and welcoming. With all this white grass and wisdom around there are so many stories and smiles to be found.