On the verge of Independence, 16th September 1975, Papua New Guineans were read out loud, the preamble of the constitution of Papua New Guinea (PNG) which states:
WE, THE PEOPLE OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA –
- united in one nation
- pay homage to the memory of our ancestors—the source of our strength and origin of our combined heritage
- acknowledge the worthy customs and traditional wisdom of our people —which have come down to us from generation to generation
- pledge ourselves to guard and pass on to those who come after us our noble traditions and the Christian principles that are ours now.
The identity of any nation around the world is found in the cultural values, customs and traditions of its people.
Papua New Guinea is one of, if not the most, heterogeneous nations in the world. There are hundreds of ethnic groups indigenous to Papua New Guinea.
In regards to world language density and diversity, PNG is described to have the highest language density on the planet. It has over 850 indigenous languages and at least as many traditional societies, out of a population of just under an estimated 9 million.
The Sing-sing Festival
Despite its diverse cultural and linguistic aspects, the nation in all its Independence celebrations, unites in one of the most fascinating events commonly known as Singsing.
This event which occurs all over the country and consists of songs, feasting and gift-giving is attended exclusively by all Papua New Guinean tribes in their own unique style of fashion, music and dances creating an amazing spectacles of colors and sounds.
Ultimately, sing-sing festival is one of the biggest events that truly defines PNG’s strong bond towards its traditional customs and values.
Evidently, the first sing-sing in the country was held in the town of Goroka in 1957 — that is over a decade before Woodstock gave birth to the modern western music festival phenomenon and approximately two decades before the nation gained its Independence.
Images: PNG’s first Sing-sing Festival in 1957 in Goroka Source: http://www.pngaa.net/
Yet, this year’s Independence like many others, was celebrated with style and great traditional singsing festivals fortifying PNG’s strong traditional ties, many western influences are quite obvious.
In Port Moresby, the day varied with traditional celebrations at Ela Beach, and ended with a loud night anniversary celebrations with the famous Black Brothers band of West Papua.
Being part of all Independence celebrations, the encouragement of Western popular music by taking in musicians from overseas is a concern by some citizens.
Endangered Indigenous Cultures
Caesar Kelly, of Papuan Tribal Haus, an organised group whose main vision is to maintain, promote and develop culture in Papua area told EMTV Online, PNG with over 800 languages and cultures is one of those nations that has been greatly affected by the western influence, since its discovery and colonisation in the mid nineteenth century.
Kelly believes that the responsibility to keep PNGs culture alive lies on all, and every Independence day should be a time when Papua New Guineans reflect on their indigenous cultures, customs, traditional values and embrace and share these with the younger generations.
“Papua New Guinea’s traditional ceremonies, cultural values, village way of life and countless indigenous systems especially traditional songs and dances are in danger of extinction in the next decades if nothing drastic is done to save it,” Kelly reiterated.
Meanwhile, there is greater need in taking proactive actions and approaches to support, promote, maintain and or preserve indigenous arts and culture.