The River at Pagwi
A few weeks ago, I got back to East Sepik again for the first time since July of 2012. It was great to see the towns and have a sense of continuity; also great to see it through eyes that have now been around PNG a bit longer and come to understand the extent to which the arts of the Sepik region are represented all around the country. At Ambua Lodge near Tari, the dining room is full of magnificent woodwork carved by folks from Sepik. This set of photos is all from the settlements on both sides of the river at Pagwi, which so far as I can see is the first place along the course of the river, in its run from the mountains at the Indonesian-PNG border to the Bismarck Sea, where a sealed road gets to the river’s bank. The detail of roof decoration above is from a lodge I photographed at that time as well; but then I’d not seen the gorgeous close-up mask that I shared with you all back when the orchid show was happening down the road from us at the house of Parliament….which was built in the style of a House Tamburan, a men’s house for traditional ceremonies in the Sepik region, from what I understand.
It’s good I went for the orchid show and took those shots of the lovely facade of parliament house when I did, because not long after, the speaker of parliament had the lovely row of traditional masks just above the lintel taken down and (at least partly) destroyed, for religious reasons – something about idolatry, I think. This caused a bit of a kerfuffle in the local media. I remain somewhat shocked that in such a multi-cultural country, such a senior leader can get away with simply destroying something of that sort which, as I see it, represents both part of the wondrous heterogeneous cultural patrimony of this rich nation, and beautifully skilled artistic craft. This blog, it would appear, is one of the few places where one can easily see images of the original, intact facade of the lovely house of parliament. That entry, and another example of a lovely traditional larger mask like the one above can be found in these entries:
and here, though I think some of these masks have origins from other regions as well:
If you’d like to see the rainy vs dry season comparisons, go check out a few of the river shots from the entry below:
if you scan through that entry you’ll see a few shots of the same stretch of shore above and below; there’s one where many people are unloading from a boat that’s down below where I was shooting from: that spot is where the boat is in shot just below. I figure the river is a good several metres higher in these shots than last time I was here.
On the other side from Pagwi is a crocodile farm, with riverine crocodiles. Compared to the massive saltwater crocs I saw in Northern Territory two years ago, these guys look cute and cuddly. Still, I’d rather not step on one or even share the same patch of water with them! And as the wonderfully decorated skull below shows, even these freshwater guys can grow to substantial size if not captured by croc hunters like those pictured above and then sold for either meat or leather.
Green Hills & Highlands of Tari…Plus Some East Sepik Shots Also :-)
It will, I trust, not have escaped your notice that probably the coastal sunset shot might not have been taken in the same location as the shot of me above. For those of you aware that I’m now finishing a two-week vacation in Australia, it may not have escaped your notice that these don’t look like photos from Australia so much, either. I’m clearing the last photos from my visit to Wewak & Maprik and other parts of East Sepik Province, as well as a recent (late July) visit to Tari in the highlands, so that I can next focus on the shots of this lovely Australia vacation. This way, whenever I get around to it, those shots from Kakadu National Park etc. will sit at the main page of the blog for a long time, since I doubt I’ll do a lot of posts for a while once I get those finally sorted and up….I’ll be ready to do other things with my time hehe. 🙂
But in the meantime I do hope you’ll enjoy these shots from the highlands, with a few shots from the coast, of PNG. For anyone who’s not already heard, I heartily recommend two links to radio interviews given by a wonderful colleague of mine who recent left the mission and did some interviews on her way out; those links are here:
It will not have escaped anyone that I love flowers. These were all shot on a nice walk I took with the Tari team around Ambua lodge, a tourist near Tari in the highlands where I also saw the waterfall that begins this entry.
Perhaps between the links, and these shots, I’ll keep you busy enough for the moment that no one will mind waiting a bit longer for the shots from Kakadu National Park where I spent a wonderful birthday with my friends Howard and Gene last week. For now, that’s it…Hope all’s well with everyone. Ciao.
Along the Sepik River
smw, slt is at this moment on vacation in Australia. In this exact moment, it’s Sydney, and tomorrow I’ll fly up to Darwin on the top end, as I understand they call it, for some exploration of Kakadu National Park and a few other remote areas rumored to be amazing. To keep myself from falling too terribly far behind on sorting, color-correcting and posting my photos, I’ve decided to pop most of the photos from my recent East Sepik outing up here. The Sepik River – next to which you see me photographed, just above – is apparently one of the longest undammed rivers in the world, is the longest in the nation of Papua New Guinea (1300 km long or something like that), and has various other important comparative distinctions. Within PNG it’s famous as creator of the Sepik Plain, one of the few areas with lots of flat land in this country so dominated by mountains. (Check back on the other photos I’ve posted from PNG, true not really a geographic sampler of PNG but still, and see if any show as much flat horizon as the shot above.)
The people who live along the river are well known within PNG for their amazing woodwork traditions — anywhere you go in PNG you’re likely to see enormous and spectacular wooden carvings which are just lovely. Also renowned are the big houses on stilts that are traditional up there. Since this was a short and full work trip, I didn’t have a lot of time to explore and take as many photos as I’d have liked…but I did do some of my usual walking around town, chatting with folks, and photographing some of the amazing flowers I saw everywhere. Hope you enjoy them. Look for more photos in the coming weeks, from highlands, where I spent some time after this trip, and then from Australia. But first, I’ll need to sort out some computer frustrations. Ah well….
…these three are all carved columns supporting the large house you’ve seen a few other pics of. It’s a guesthouse – not particularly luxurious, but friendly and interesting.
Look a bit closely and you’ll see carvings at the bow of that long canoe, above. This is Pagwi, the first place along the course of the Sepik where a road reaches the river. To the right in this shot, upstream toward West Sepik province and the PNG-Indonesia border where the river originates, are vast riverine region with no roads; to the south across the river is a large area of riverine villages and towns that stretches from the river to the foot of the mountains. We were doing some follow-up visits for the training support we provide hospitals in setting up a Family Support Center for survivors of family and sexual violence – and there are two hospitals in that area that we’ve recently worked with, so we took the chance to get out and learn more about provision of care in the areas.
The long boats, above, ply up and down the main river; the smaller canoes you’ve seen tend to cross the river and head into the smaller villages and towns on the south side toward the mountains. There are also, of course, main market towns up and down the main stretch of river as well.
Second-hand clothing stores are all the rage in PNG – something many expats on our team love exploring. Above, Ruth is chatting with the betel-nut (buai) sellers along the road in Maprik.