Postcards from Port Moresby 1973-1975

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This gallery contains 8 photos.

With the 40th anniversary of Papua New Guinea’s independence now almost upon us, there has been a small but noticeable increase in the number of visitors interested in old images from the seventies. This includes any photos of the events … Continue reading

Postcards from Logohu Place

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 … … I Googled the  house at 3 Logohu Place, Boroko, today and it didn’t look like it had changed much in the 35 years since I called it home. In those long-ago colonial days the street sign called the little … Continue reading

Australia’s invasion of New Britain, 11 September 1914

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One hundred years ago, at dawn on 11 September 1914, an advance party of 25 voluntarily enlisted Australian soldiers landed on the breakwater at Kabakaul, in New Britain. They were subsequently joined by the rest of the 1500-man strong Australian … Continue reading

One day in the life of the University of PNG

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  In 1972 when this photo was taken, the forum at the University of Papua New Guinea was a much-used meeting place for students, as well as a kind of semi-open-air lecture hall for visiting speakers. I’m guessing that is … Continue reading

PNG’s first ministry with correct caption

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David Stephen has very kindly identified the members of PNG’s first cabinet in the correct order as they appear in this photo, left to right: Thomas Kavali (National Party) Minister for Works; Julius Chan (People’s Progress Party) Finance Minister; Reuben Taureka (Pangu … Continue reading

PNG’s First Ministry

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The grainy old photo above is the official photo of PNG’s first ministry, formed as a coalition under Chief Minister Michael Somare. Judging from the formal attire I would say it was taken immediately after the 17 members of the … Continue reading

Taim Bilong Janet

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There have been lots of stories in the news lately about domestic violence and how it is becoming endemic throughout the world. A lot of the spotlight has been on PNG, where violence against women and children has become a … Continue reading

Balua’s Wife

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An American couple has requested more information about what life was like for Papua New Guineans, living under Australia’s colonial administration in the mid- to late-20th century. This blog is primarily a picture blog but I’ll have a go and … Continue reading

Child Care in Port Moresby

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Most of the Australian women who arrived in Port Moresby in the 1960s and 1970s came from working-class or middle-class backgrounds. Having a domestic servant wasn’t a part of their life experience. That all changed, often within hours of their … Continue reading

Lighting-up Time at the Goroka Show

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There are so many brilliant sing sing photos on the Internet these days that it is fair to wonder whether a couple of old snaps from 40 years ago could add much to the general pool. It is just that … Continue reading

Nations Will Learn from You

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The years from 1972 to 1975 were an exciting time to be living in Papua New Guinea as the nation came to terms with self-government and independence. Just about everybody was singing one song in particular, not only because of … Continue reading

Celebrating Independence Day

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… This blog is primarily about the old days in Papua New Guinea and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to post some photos of PNG’s first Independence Day, in 1975. It is a trip down memory lane for some … Continue reading

Don’t Stuff around in a Q

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I have a T-shirt that is 40 years old this year. That may not be a record for T-shirt longevity but it’s pretty good all the same. It shares its birthday with Air Niugini – also 40 this year – … Continue reading

Our Haus on the Hill

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A couple of recent comments posted to this blog by Bruce Thompson, a former journalist with the South Pacific Post’s  newspaper, the Post Courier, send me back to the old photo boxes for some pics of our raunhaus, or gazebo. … Continue reading

‘The Chief’: Sir Michael Somare

Sir MIchael Somare in December 1973, wearing the magnificent Yamdar costume as Sana of his people.

Sir Michael Somare, first Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea, December 1973.

Many expatriate Australians living in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s would have taken at least one photo of Michael (now Sir Michael) Somare whilst he went about his duties as the country’s first Chief Minister. The gallery of photos in this post was taken in his home village of Karau, in the Murik Lakes district of the East Sepik province. The occasion was Somare’s initiation as Sana, or peacekeeper, of his own people but also his initiation as Onkau, or head person, of the family of Lady Veronica Somare, his much respected wife.

What I would like to do in this post is concentrate less on Sir Michael and more on the kind and hospitable people of Karau village. Almost 40 years have passed and there would be people portrayed in the photos who have since gone to join their ancestors. Those of us who remain behind have grown old as each of us must. Even the children would now be in late middle age. My hope is that it is those children who will now enjoy looking at the old photos of what was an important day in the life of their families and their village.

I went to Karau as part of a media contingent. The journey took all day, starting with a flight to the regional capital of Wewak, followed by a very long trip on a coastal boat until we reached the entrance to the Murik Lakes, where we tranferred across to a motorised canoe for the final leg of our journey. By the time we reached Karau, it was already quite late at night and we all bunked down in the guest house that the villagers had prepared for us. I recall that the women supplied us with a delicious chicken and coconut hotpot. The village was built on a sandbank, and we were awoken the following morning by the sound of children playing on the beach. The day of the Sana had begun.

Karau-village-at-dawn

Karau village at dawn and children are already playing on the beach.

Post-breakfast and the rest of the village is on the move. There had been quite a fierce rain storm overnight and there were lots of puddles waiting to be evaporated. The houses, however, had come through unscathed. The ceremony would go ahead.

Early morning after an overnight storm and the men are inspecting for damage. There is nothing but a bit of washed-up debris.

Early morning after an overnight storm and the men are inspecting for damage. There is nothing but a bit of washed-up debris.

 

Bringing in the food offerings copy

Lots of happy smiles…

...and rice for the supper table.

…and rice for the supper table.

Now the men only are summoned to the sacred men's house for the start of the Sana initiation ceremony.

Now the men are summoned to the sacred men’s house for the start of the Sana initiation ceremony.

While the women are locked up in a house on the other side of the village. The sacred part of the ceremony is for men's eyes only.

The women and children wander off to a darkened house on the other side of the village. The sacred part of the ceremony is for men’s eyes only and the women are left to giggle and gossip and chat in the gloom of someone’s home to their hearts’ content. Their confinement lasted for quite a long time but no one seemed to mind.

Lady Veronica Somare with her youngest daughter. She had special dispensation to enter the men's house but elected to stay with the rest of the women..

Lady Veronica Somare with her baby daughter, Dulciana. She had special dispensation to enter the men’s house but stayed with the rest of the women.

When the Sana ceremony is over, the elders escort their Sana through the village. The tall European at the back is Post Courier journo Noel Pascoe, who was invited to join in the proceedings.

When the Sana ceremony is over and the new Sana is escorted through the village.

Singsing dancers performing for the whole village at the end of the ceremony.

Singsing dancers performing for the whole village at the end of the ceremony.

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Somare, after several days of fasting, is desperate for a cigarette and a village elder obliges.

Somare, after several days of fasting, is desperate for a cigarette and a village elder obliges.

And finally there is this  photo, the one that featured in a number of newspapers and the one that the newspaper editors clearly preferred. And that’s the end of the story. A day in the life of Karau village, 40 years ago this year. I hope there are some happy memories there for some of you.

(The copyright for all of the photos in this post is held by the photographer, Veronica Peek, and after that, by her descendants. Must not be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder.)

Finally, after days of fasting, a nicotine hit. Even a Sana is human and Somare, who still smoked all those many years ago, blew smoke rings and savoured the moment.

After days of fasting, a nicotine hit. Even a Sana is human and Sir Michael Somare, who still smoked all those years ago like so many of us did and now regret it, blew smoke rings and savoured the moment. He is dressed in the regalia of onkau to show that he is also the head of Lady Veronica Somare’s family.

Dame Josephine Abaijah: Flying Solo in a Man’s World

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When I look back now on those seventies years in Papua New Guinea, there is one politician who stands out as personal favourite, and that is Dame Josephine Abaijah. In those days when she had no title, Josephine and I … Continue reading

Sir John Guise in Days of Old

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When Sir John Guise became the first Governor-General of Papua New Guinea, way back in 1975, he posed for a portrait for the Post Courier newspaper and this is it. He is in the wash-house at his home in Port … Continue reading

The “Birdman” in PNG

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Do you remember when the “Birdman” came to the Goroka Show in 1974 and put on a great exhibition of hang gliding for everybody, with smoke flares and the like? In the previous year, the South Pacific Brewery had taken … Continue reading

Out of the Darkroom and into the Closet

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There are many fine portraits of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, but this one is a bit special. It was taken in Papua New Guinea in 1974, when the country was soon to celebrate its independence, and it captures the … Continue reading

Photographing Papua New Guinea

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Today when I look at all the beautiful photos of Papua New Guinea on the internet, I can see that a great many of those digital colour images are vastly superior to the black-and-white print photos that Australian expatriates like … Continue reading

From Australia to Papua New Guinea 1971

In the 1970s I was an Australian in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. The street scene below was taken on my outward journey by the late Denis Williams and it does a brilliant job of encapsulating what Australia was like at that time. The first and most obvious impression is that fashion was in a state of change. The older generation was still clinging to its long coats, suits and hats, but it was being overtaken by a younger generation in corduroy and duffle, leather jackets, floral shirts and beads. The next generation of women were raising their skirts and letting their hair down, while their male counterparts were favouring long hair, moustaches and sideburns.

Australian street scene 1971.

Australian street scene 1971.

The second impression is the one that counts. There are 32 people in the photo and they are all white. Although the White Australia Policy had been relaxed to some extent, in 1971 there were very few non-European immigrants to Australia and those that did come were mostly Vietnamese boat people. The policy wasn’t completely outlawed until 1973.

Young Papua New Guineans are entitled to wonder today why Australia did such a mediocre job of governing its nearest neighbour. They may find the answer in this image. We were a mostly benevolent and law-abiding people, dull and unimaginative perhaps but well-intended. We were also race exclusionists although few would have admitted it. Given our birth heritage, how could we have been otherwise? By the 1970s, young Australians were pouring into Papua New Guinea for an exotic overseas work experience. With little or no background in governing other races and cultures, we looked to the 19th century and the days of British colonial rule for some sort of guidance on what not to do. You know, all those white ‘sahibs’ and their ‘memsahibs’ running India and bossing everyone around. We vowed that we would be different and ended up being the same.