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.