By Scott Waide – EMTV News, Kainantu
The Eastern Highlands Cultural Centre in Kainantu is a special place. It is a store of knowledge maintained by a dedicated few. It is a place known for two things – its pottery and its handmade rugs.
The rug making isn’t a traditional art. It was introduced in the 1970s by an Australian expatriate who lived in the Eastern Highlands. But now, the art has become part of the Eastern Highlands identity.
“We used to get our wool from New Zealand but then we realised that our farmers were growing sheep so we started buying wool from them,” said Philemon Erebu, the Centre’s care taker.
Rug making supports the remnants of a sheep and wool industry that thrived in the 1970s in the Eastern highlands. Sheep farmers from all over the eastern highlands shear their sheep and sell the wool to the Kainantu Cultural Centre.
Lois Martin is a veteran rug maker from the Eastern Highlands. She has been making rugs for over 20 years. She is one of several whose passion for the art is unmatched.
“We have become custodians of this knowledge. I’ve been going this work for 22 years. It’s good work.”
Wook preparation is tedious work that takes several hours. But the products are exceptional works of art. Rugs handmade from Papua New Guinean sheep wool grown by village farmers for an industry that if supported could fetch millions of kina.