A quick introduction to new followers on the blog and some who may not know that apart from my curatorial work and writing I’m a practicing artist. While I was away from the blog, I painted. My favourite medium is watercolour. I also draw with pencil and pen. If you follow me on Instagram (tribaldiva), then you have seen some of these work. Here are two recent paintings I completed as part of a weekly art challenge with a New Jersey artist friend, Akil Roper.
Most of my art from the 2017 solo exhibition, “Beauty Within” I had held in Royal Papua Yacht Club, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, can be found on my website www.joycelinleahy.com. That collection concentrates on people, places and things that have inspired me about the beauty of my country. The artworks are all for sale – both originals and limited edition prints. Some originals have been sold, however, you are welcome to email me on email@example.com. Please let me know in the comments if you like these and share them if you want. I will be showing more art here in the future.
I have taken a very long blog holiday; the longest since I first started blogging four to five years ago. I have had several art projects I needed to complete and I needed to spend some time on my book, health, and my family. During this time, I’ve received wonderful emails from many of you. Thank you. These emails have deeply touched me, and made me feel that my writing on the tribalmystic blog means something to all of us. To blog daily will be difficult at this time, but I’m very happy to return and work at posting two to three articles, stories or documentaries and pictures per week and when I can.
Thank you so much for your patience and continued support. You being here with me and sharing our stories means a lot to me too. In my culture, we dance to celebrate important events – coming home to this blog is worth dancing, so above are a group of young ladies dancing in Palau. I took this photo over ten years ago, and especially like the bright tones in their skirts and dancing sticks.
To kick start the writing, I would like to share with you a short story. Some of you may recognise parts of this story from my writing (150 words) Mondays Finish the Story with Barbara W. Beacham in 2015. I have left a link at the end of the story for you. I built the tale from 150 words to 500 words for the Queensland Writers’ Centre Furious Fiction in April, but since I didn’t win, I can share it here. Let me know what you think. The rules were to use the following lines in dialogue.
“It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should, therefore, be treated with great caution.”
“It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should, therefore, be treated with great caution,” Joe said and placed two “candies” on the windowsill. I didn’t respond.
I sat where I could see the pink roses over the white fence. The neighbour’s little girl came out to play. She had bluish lilac eyes and sunshine hair – golden and full of light. She looked two or three, just like Rosie, if she were here with me.
The drugs, one blue and one red, may divert my headache, but not fix it. I didn’t want to argue with him anymore – it only ever turned ugly. But when Joe made poetry and philosophy out of his drug business, it sickened me. I was tired of it, and him. And I wanted my daughter.
Joe moved around the house and after a while, I smelt his garlic breath and stinky shoes.
“What’s it going to be then, eh?” His arm pressed mine to take the pills and he kissed my head. I had dreamt about Rosie and now became tearful. After two years in Johnson Mental Facility, I finally started to feel good again and hoped to see Rosie. I had not seen my baby since she was six months old and Child Services took her. Joe promised me we would see Rosie.
“You keep talking about Rosie, and you do nothing about it. Nothing! You sit at that window all day, every day, Cathy!”
He twisted the truth. He won’t help me find her.
“Oh, by the way, Jack is coming on the payroll. It’s great! He’s never done anything like this before,” Joe said, sounding like he was the model big brother.
“You shouldn’t force Jack into that crap, he’s only 16,” I lashed out.
“I didn’t. He said he needed money.”
“Really?” And that was all I had to say. It became a war.
Later, in hiding, I watched the police take Joe away. He would have calmed down, but only he and I knew that; not our new neighbours. If only Joe wasn’t shouting. This abandoned house was the safest so far in two weeks. We have moved ten times this year.
Today was very quiet. The sun warmed my scalp and shadows danced on my hands. My thoughts hurt my head.
“Ava! Ava! Where is your doll?” the little girl’s mother called.
Near the white fence were a lilac doll pantsuit and two doll hands. The roses matched her floppy hat and threw shadow creases over her delicate face. The toddler first ripped the doll’s head and legs, which she threw towards me. Ava had caught me watching her. She laid the doll arms and pantsuit down, and dropping the body, she ran to their house. My eyes salted, thinking how scary I must have looked to her. I need to leave before the Johnson Mental Health party arrives.
Post Courier NewsOne of PNGs most celebrated singer Moses Tau had left us for good. Moses Tau, the country’s iconic singer had suddenly passed away an hour after he collapsed at the Lamana Hotel. His sudden death shook the country as people try to grasp the fact that he is no longer with us.As news of his passing spread, thousands of condolence messages flood the social media from both national and international users.Among the various condolences from relatives, friends and fans was a message from the Moresby South MP Justin Tkatchenko who posted his condolence message on his Hon. Justin Tkatchenko MP Facebook Page.“I have lost a wonderful friend who supported me without fear or favor and was so loved and admired by our people. He put fun and joy into our lives,” posted Tkatchenko.Mr Tkatchenko described the famous singer as vibrant and a true showman and thanked the Late star for making live more fun and exciting.He added that the late star music will still live on.
“We are going to miss you. Rest in ever lasting peace my dear friend your Music lives in us forever.”
Meanwhile, the details of his death are yet to be released.
From simple beginnings, this very colourful and dangerously outrageous talent started a music career. Little did Papua New Guineans truly understand what Moses was up. Many ridiculed and laughed at Moses’s rhythmic hip pulsating dance movements and high pitch feminine voice which quickly became a recognised and loved music (and name) not only in PNG, but across the Pacific islands. When Moses stepped on stage, a new era was born in a country closed to gay rights, dominated by men and the ruled by the cultural Melanesian ‘big man’ mentality.
There are exceptions to this seemingly endless process of discrimination and abuse. By the late 1990s, gays were well and truly stigmatised in PNG. That was when a gay Motuan gospel singer from Central Province a little to the east of Port Moresby was wooed away from his village gospel group by the PNG recording giant CHM Supersound Studios, who urged him to go solo. He adopted a generic Pacific style of singing, using falsetto voice, and so his first song Aito Paka Paka was born. It was an instant hit, and was soon followed by others.61 The accompanying video clips were all designed by Moses himself: the island-girl dancing style and costumes, lavishly replete with flowers, brightly coloured sarongs, outrageous hats and of course, the Pacific-signature swaying grass-skirt. He even managed to work a selection of tropical fruit into the dance scenes—the symbolism is obvious. It was the first public display of cross-dressing and transgenderism in the country—and it worked wonderfully. Moses became a star.62
Nevertheless, it wasn’t all easy.
When [the Aito Paka Paka clip] came out, it sort of brought this whole thing to the public, and those who were known as geligelis were harassed, they were called names … it came out to expose the lifestyle, and at the same time, had a negative side of it … it was sort of an awareness thing when Moses came out … he overdid that [the sarong and the flowers] … when Moses came out with his video clip, that was an issue among also the people here, and poor guy, I heard that he had a bad time too … people started stoning his car whenever they saw him, they were calling him names … very brave (Len).
Source: Image taken from the video, Moses Tau, 2005, ‘Aito Paka Paka,’ in The Best of Moses Tau.
But Moses was more than just a new pop singer sensation. He was a gay on a mission.
It is a very difficult thing in PNG to show your sexuality … is very scary, because it is not an accepted thing in PNG. I just want to do what I have and who I am. I also did it not for myself but for the suffering of we people through many years ago. And I told my friends: look, I’ll try it out, if I fail I fail. If I go through it with success, we will all benefit. So I’m targeting to educate the people of this nation to really know that there’s gays living in Papua New Guinea. So I did it. I went through it. It was very painful (Moses Tau).
Moses was invited to Cairns shortly after, for Independence celebrations.63 Then early in 2001, he was invited by the PNG community in Sydney to take part in the famous annual Mardi Gras parade. The PNG community there was constructing a float in the form of a lagatoi [seafaring canoe], to feature Moses as the ‘Pacific Queen,’ dressed as a traditional ‘Hiri Queen.’ Sponsorship was offered by PNG’s commercial radio station NauFM, ‘because he has not only developed into a prominent musician but has developed a good character. He has also developed a good following and has really lifted the image of PNG music.’64
However, this decision was not an instant hit with many. The Hiri Hahenamo [celebration of Hiri culture] refers to an annual Port Moresby festival which celebrates the Papuan tradition of the Hiri trading expeditions from the Central Province north-west to the Gulf Province, returning again as the winds change towards the end of the year. Special lagatois are built and a feature of the festival today is the Hiri Queen competition, open to girls from all surrounding Motuan villages who dress, dance and sing in a traditional manner. The Motu-Koitabu Council, which represents the Motu and Koitabu villages surrounding Port Moresby, took offence, its Chairman saying,
We [Motu Koitabuans] … do not approve nor do we encourage homosexuality in our society—traditional or contemporary … [we] are disgusted and not happy at all—to say the least—to have a very important and serious aspect of the culture portrayed at a festival for homosexuals.65
We are totally against the Hiri Hanenamo [sic] concept, which promotes morals and good behaviour, being taken and abused at such a morally wrong festival … we do not approve of or encourage such practices, and if Moses Tau wants to represent his personal beliefs and ideals, we suggest he represent himself personally by tailoring his own outfit on a theme which does not threaten to bring our name and culture into disrepute.66
This statement was followed by letters to the Editor and an FM-Central government radio talk-back show in which callers were divided.67 Many Motu-Koitabuans protested the desecration of their culture but others supported Moses, praising his talent, his openness and his right to perform as he wished.68
Moses was very troubled. He claims a deep respect for traditions and culture, and points to his background in the church and his family’s tradition as gospel singers.69 He immediately called a press conference and denied the reports of the lagatoi float and the Hiri Queen costume. He said his Mardi Gras appearance was to promote his album and not to represent the PNG gay community.70 The matter was kept in public view by a further news item showing Moses receiving his visa from the Australian Deputy High Commissioner, and relating how Sydney radio stations were carrying reports of the difficulties he was facing and the concern of the Mardi Gras organisers.71 But in the end, Moses did not ride on a lagatoi float or wear traditional Hiri Queen costume—instead, he wore yet another of his ‘Pacific’ creations, and danced his way along the street.72
After Moses returned from Sydney, his success and position were assured, with club appearances,73 sky-rocketing music sales and even a brief squabble between recording studios over him.74 Club performances of ‘Mardi Gras’ nights were staged, and were so successful that when another was proposed, Moses called on his gay friends to do a ‘queen’ show. To his surprise, many Filipinos also took part. These shows became a great success, attracting cosmopolitan audiences and many other clubs followed suit, and became the foundation for the drag shows of today.
But it was about more than fun. Moses took the opportunity to promote awareness after every show, saying,
We have these kind of people, this kind of community of people, that live in this country. We have no choice, we can’t change them, but let’s give them a chance to show their package, what they have. Give them a freedom for what they can do, for them to enjoy life. We can’t keep them in a cage for them to live in fear all the time (Moses Tau).
He continues his community outreach work, travelling around villages at his own expense, distributing condoms and promoting awareness about gay rights, HIV, the dangers of consuming homebrew alcohol and marijuana. Although he receives no funding support for this work, he has achieved a strong measure of fame throughout the country, and in January 2006 was invited to sing at the funeral of Bill Skate, the first PNG Prime Minister to die in office.
Opinion is divided as to whether the recent trend towards coming out was due to Moses or not.
One of the break-throughs I think especially in Moresby was Moses Tau’s [Aito Paka Paka] clip. That made people talk about it. That’s the turning point, it’s like an awareness that there are these sort of people around (Barry and Colin).
Before ‘she’ [Moses Tau] brought out the clip [Aito Paka Paka], we came out to the public before, the younger ones. As far as from what I see, those bigger ones, we’ve got plenty but because of the culture and the traditions … people are still hiding and some are forced to get married, and some, they just keep themselves locked up … like the group now we have here, like as for myself, at first I didn’t come out … but through those ones, I can see that … it’s not Moses Tau, it’s these ones … they’re the ones like, coming out, all this stuff (Palopa, indicating others in the meeting).
Even if Moses was the catalyst, the gains have been small and there is still a long way to go, even for committed activists, as Victor’s Tale above demonstrates.
I am away from the blog again, but I want to wish all my followers, readers, family and friends a very Merry Christmas (and if you don’t celebrate Christmas) happy end of 2017. I wish you all a wonderful, spiritual and joyful 2018. Here is one of my favourite musicians, Sona Jobartha with a joyful tune. See you all in 2018. Joycelin
The Pacific Fashion Festival was held last Saturday at Cloudland, Brisbane City and we made our debut with the Kalem – Warrior Woman clothing and accessories.
Here are some pictures I would like to share. I hope you like them. The arrangement and preparations took me nearly three years and went across a few countries with sampling, but when it all came together, the show was for 30 minutes and we were on stage for maybe 3-5 minutes. It was worth it. I was fortunate one designer could not make the show and I showed extra garments on stage.
If you are interested in our clothing and accessories range, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been writing less and creating art more this year. I’d like to share with you some of my projects I have been working on, apart from my recent art exhibition at the Redland Performing Art Centre (September).
With the art I have been producing, I have launched a new fashion and accessories label called Kalem Warrior Woman. Kalem is my christian name, sometimes used as my middle name. The “warrior woman” part is another story, please read on.
Why fashion label you may ask? Well, back in PNG I had a clothing business called Kalem Kollection for over 20 years before we moved to Australia. I wanted to create something Papua New Guinean and also carry on my passion to promote and protect our cultural designs and cultural heritage. The creative turned into business and before I knew it, I was making corporate wear. When we left PNG, I was unable to pursue this work due to high costs of travel. Now we are, almost 15 years later.
My beautiful niece Marcelle Bucher has graciously modelled in this photoshoot with her aunty. I’m really grateful to her. She has made it so easy for me, and helped show Kalem very well. This is a selection of clothes and accessories that will go into the Pacific Fashion Festival tomorrow in Cloudlands, Brisbane from 1-4pm. Here is a brief history of my brand name Kalem and why our tag line is the Warrior Woman. This blurb was published by the Pacific Fashion Festival.
Pacific Fashion Festival is excited to announce the fierce label ‘Kalem – Warrior Woman’ by Joycelin Kauc Leahy from Papua New Guinea. The label has a deep sense of history and meaning that cannot be overlooked. In the early 1900’s Joycelin’s great-grandmother and her sister fought in court for their land after their father was chased out across the Huon from Salamaua during a tribal fight. In a man’s world, the daughters of their father were regarded as foreigners in their own land because their father was gone. The two sisters battled in court against local landowners, the missionary and colonial government and won! They won not only for themselves but for their people who were eventually settled on a patch called Ambesi.
Eventually, Joycelin’s mother inherited this battle by birth and had to also endure similar battles for her land rights as a woman over the land of which she overcame with victory. It was through her mothers and great grandmothers battles that Joycelin was given the opportunity of a good life, education and a loving upbringing because they were women that fostered her art and talent. She now dedicates her label to her fierce bloodline of women as “warrior women” in the literal sense. All artwork on Kalem textiles is influenced by cultural motifs from Papua New Guinea, created from what Joycelin paints and sometimes partnership work created with PNG artist and former Kalem designer, (Keia Daure). Joycelin is known for her use of watercolour and natural pigments she creates from plants. Joycelin believes in the deeper essence of preserving her culture, stories and history of her people with her art, fashion and designs.
If you wish to purchase any of our dresses, you can do so on Paypal by contacting me: email@example.com
Some of you may know that I have spent quite a lot of time on art this year. It doesn’t men I have left storytelling for good. I’ll be back soon. One of the reasons is that I have been looking at and working on business options for my art and I am proud to launch my new collection of clothing and accessories, produced with my art and designs I created. Let me know if you like it.
More on this story as soon as I get all the photos done.
A self-taught artist, this man showed artistic skills as a child by simply drawing fishermen on the sandy beaches in his remote Papua New Guinea village. Years later, he ventured into higher education and became a medical doctor, yet never leaving behind his love of drawing.
Born in 1957 in Loniu Village, on Los Negros Island, in Manus Province, Powesiu Lawes’ art began as drawings in the sand. He recalls that he always enjoyed capturing images of fishermen catching fish on the reef at dawn and later at dusk.
A gifted school student, he quickly accelerated from Primary to Secondary School in Manus Province, during the Australian colonial administration. From his home province, Manus, he was selected into the elite Sogeri Senior High School outside Port Moresby (now PNG Capital) in the early 1970s. He was recognised at each school he attended as a talented artist, actor, sportsman and gifted student whose abilities would enable him to do anything he wanted in the soon-to-be newly independent Papua New Guinea. PNG gained its Independence in September 16, 1975.
At that time, Powesiu was expected to train to become one of PNG’s first airline pilots, but he rejected this path and began medical school. While studying medicine, he produced a collection of work published in his first book of art – Wati Kui: “I always wanted to help people, so medical school was a natural choice and my art and the first book – Wati Kui – was one way to pay my way through my medical training”.
After graduating from medical school, Powesiu Lawes spent some years as the senior medical officer in the PNG Navy. Then he began his private medical practice in Port Moresby. He maintained his art rugby union coaching and stayed closely connected to his beloved Loniu Village, by regularly trips home.
In 2009, he retired from medical practice and returned to Loniu Village where he was elected the Councillor of Loniu, Los Negros’ largest village. The village has its own distinct language and cultural practices and is also known for producing PNG’s educated elite such as PNG’s Supreme Court judges, academics, diplomats, doctors, scientists and lawyers. Powesiu Lawes’ art is one central strategy in keeping Loniu’s cultural practices alive, along with his aim of establishing a Loniu Culture House in the village to teach Loniu’s youth their unique practices.
“Without a good grounding in the tradition of their birth” he said, “many of them will lose their way once they leave the village for the bright lights and temptations of Lae, Port Moresby and beyond. I never did, because of the very grounding I had”.
About art, he said he has tried many different mediums – using brushes, spray painting for murals, and coloured inks; but the result that black ink on white paper gives, is the medium that gives him the greatest satisfaction. He has completed a second book – Wati Kui 2 – and its drawings are currently shown in Redlands Performing Art Centre in Cleveland (Brisbane, Australia). It is part of the Melanesian Wantok Showcase. Here are some of Dr Lawes’ artwork and their stories
The ‘Loniu Files’: Some customs and traditions of the Loniu people
Loniu, like many other societies, has a well-developed set of cultural practices and traits that have provided reference points for Loniu’s cultural, social and spiritual development over hundreds of years. These have contributed to refined sets of knowledge and skills that have sustained and maintained Loniu society. The Loniu Files is a set of shared and understood ideas, idiosyncrasies, beliefs, values, knowledge and language. The substance of these has stood time’s test and cannot be disproven nor proven.
Aspects of Loniu’s culture are respect (u-uie), being sorry (kolumwamwa) and having shame (pulemachi), to whom, for what, and why; clans, their names, their number and the existence and origins of sub clans, along with each clan’s and sub clans’s origin stories and particular practices (reke pwen); in the various fishing methods, by which clans they are owned them, for what fish and whether for private or public consumption; the layout and size of a clan house (haus boi); utterances made by whom, when, where and for what purpose; who can make public speeches, where he sits or stands and why; land and sea uses and how and why, in the case of land or other property, it is given away; stages of custom and traditional practice during or after a death, when a woman is ready to marry, and gets married; and in the case of two or more wives, the use and distribution of land and other property; who is considered a leader and why; who gives advice to and stays with a young girl in her first menstruation, the advice given and why; who speaks in a haus boi during a customary event, gathering or happening, and why; circumcision of young males, the curses (pen) shouted at them by patrilineal relatives (lau-a-niataman, family of father) and why.
These are but a few of Loniu’s cultural traits with many more needing documentation. Efforts are being made to document the Loniu culture and to preserve its language. It is our identity that, because of modern influences and intermarriage, has deteriorated. Because of ignorance of the power of new ideas, practices and attitudes, not recognising these causes early enough, we have failed.
Wealth is always used in very important transactions in Loniu society. Clay pots, wooden bowls, grass skirts, arm bands or waist bands, shell money, dog’s teeth and sometimes cowry shells.
They can be used to reciprocate for a large supply of food given to a husband’s people as bride price or as death payments to a deceased father’s people; again as in reciprocation for previous work done or land used and money or other customary events and obligations, such as in a circumcision ceremony.
I am proud to announce that a collection of my artwork (art, textiles and pencil drawing) will be in a community art exhibition to celebrate the Melanesian Wantok Showcase. This exhibition opens in the Redland Performing Art Centre in Cleveland tomorrow. The music concert and will be on September 17, featuring musicians from Papua New Guinea and other Melanesian countries.
Contemporary Textile Art – Papua New Guinea
Kalem – Warrior Woman fashion. Designed by J.K.Leahy. A selection of leather handbags and silk dresses on exhibition with natural fibre woven bags in Wantok Melanesian Showcase. Redland Performing Art Centre, Queensland.
Pen and Ink Drawings – Dr Pomasiu Lawes
A taste of Melanesia in Cleveland
Head along to Redland Performing Arts Centre (RPAC) for a night of Melanesian music and culture when WANTOK Musikperforms on Sunday 17 September, on the weekend of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Independence. This showcase celebration is a partnership in community cultural development with the Quandamooka Festival and is an exciting opportunity to experience a coming together of Quandamooka and Melanesian communities, artists and musicians.
The evening will feature a fabulous line-up of contemporary and traditional Melanesian musicians. George Telek from PNG will headline the concert, bringing his signature blend of contemporary and traditional Melanesian rhythms to the RPAC stage. Telek will be joined by Charles Maimarosia from the Solomon Islands who will astound you with his talent on the pan pipes, Tio from Vanuatu with his amazing vocals, ukulele, guitar and violin skills, and Ben Hakalitz from PNG who will bring 30 years of musical experience and amazing technique on the drums to the night of celebration. They will be joined by a number of other musicians from PNG and West Papua, for an amazing night of indigenous music and culture.
There will also be the opportunity to enjoy some Melanesian food on the RPAC Piazza, and browse the art and craft display in the Concert Hall Foyer, to complete your night of Melanesian indulgence. This art and craft display curated by PNG artist/curator Joycelin Leahy in partnership with RPAC’s Elaine Seeto will be open to the public throughout the month of September, to give you more opportunity to enjoy the pieces on display. The exhibition opens tomorrow (September 4).
Don’t miss this coming together of Melanesian, Quandamooka and wider Redland communities at RPAC Sunday 17 September at 6.30pm. Tickets are $30 and can be booked via www.rpac.com.au or by calling the RPAC Box Office on 3829 8131 (booking fees are $4.10 by phone and $5 online per transaction).
A songbird is a bird that produces musical sounds which are like singing, according to the Webster dictionary. If that’s the case then photographer/poet Jenny Campbell is a songbird in my view.
I can confidently say this after listening to her at a lunch table last week in Brisbane, reciting one of her poems about the world we live in.
I share the love of birds with Jenny, but she takes her love for these feathered creatures to another level where she stalks them in the swamps and photographs them – then writes poetry about them. The ‘stalking’ is also called bird-watching. Jenny also writes serious poetry about life, the environment and politics.
I met Jenny a week ago in Brisbane through a dear friend Dr Susan Cochrane, an arts curator and a writer. Jenny is one of many artists participating in the Blue Mountains Garden of Earthly Delights Festival in November. In the Blue Mountains show, she will be featuring her bird photography and poetry. Dr Cochrane is the curator of the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens show marking its 30th anniversary. Another artist participating in the botanic show, is Orly Faya.
Jenny is currently in Brisbane for the QPF2017 Australia Poetry Slam – Queensland Finals. She is one of 20 finalists. Below this story Jenny has kindly allowed me to feature one of her bird photographs and the poem she wrote for this bird – an Australian robin. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Let’s wish Jenny Campbell all the best in the poetry finals this Sunday, ( August 27th) at the Judith Wright Centre, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.
Take us to another place where vines entwine the heart correcting misconceptions through the first and final art
Untwine entrenched surrender feel the struggle to betray the very chains that bind us as a Robin says: “G’day.”