Tag Archives: Papua New Guinea

Tribal Contemporary Art Portraits – Papua New Guinea


#Contemporary Art

Pic: Luke Stringer.

While I have been away from this blog I have been painting and creating other projects. I am sharing these short post and images especially for my blogger friends and followers. Thank you for your continued support. It is good to see some of you here already.

One of the the themes that has become part of my contemporary painting style and signature are the tribal Papua New Guinea (PNG) portraits. While these artwork take me a long time to paint and require research and specific layering to stay true to the authentic ‘bilas’ (traditional decoration and representation of the tribes), I really enjoy the process of painting these.

I have been through the cultural process myself while growing up in Wagang Village, Lae, Morobe Province. I grew up with feathers, magic leaves, bones, shells and all the beautiful natural materials you use to create special costumes. I made my own bilas and danced with my people for many years prior to moving to university to study away from home.

My love for intangible and tangible cultures of my people and the aesthetic beauty for each area in province in PNG continues through these contemporary creative exercises. I hope you like these and please share them if you want to. If you want such portrait done, comment here or email me on jkleahyart@gmail.com for sizes and prices. All work posted here are copyrighted.

Oro Beauty (Fiona Stringer). JKLeahy©

“Simbu Princess” Cleo Kambolz – J.K. Leahy©

Two Songs for One Opening


J.K.Leahy memoir stories ©

“I have a song”, I told my mother over the phone. The regular 30 minute costly international call between PNG and Australia started with muffled voices. And then, depending on who had used her phone, my mother came on when the phone was passed back to her. Sometimes Mother had to find a good spot to get the best reception. And sometimes her voice changed and I knew other ears were listening. Not all will be discussed, some things will come in the future conversation.

“Hello Ma. Are you there?”

Someone is talking in the background and she is telling them to be quiet. I smiled at myself as the picture of her room flashed in my head with the village dogs barking in the background.

“Hello!”

Family discussions and on-going feuds took up the 30 minutes so quickly. As creators of art and music, my mother and I had agreed on many occasions that we would rather sing and ‘stori’ then exchange on family heartaches. Telling stories about happy occasions and things we enjoyed often took up between ten to five minutes of the entire call.

“What song?” my mother responded.

“A song for the church opening”, I replied in Bukawac.

My mother is the village composer and musician. Not me. I am a dancer, creator of crafts and beautiful things and a fisherman.I cal also catch eels but not my mother. And Mother is not a dancer so Tinang, my grandmother and my aunts taught me. My mother did not teach me to compose nor play instruments, but we still sang together. If I wanted music – she played Skeeta Davies and Jim Reeves and Elvis. She also played her flute.

“Which opening – our village one?”

We sang every day in the evenings with my grandmother when she was alive. There was a ten-pact short biblical songs we sang at dusk. They were my favourite. If we sang at home in the village, all my aunts joined in. My mother returned to the phone after telling someone to close her door.

“Do you want to hear my song?” I said.

“Yamandu? (Really?)” she said.

“Yamandu!” I repeated. That means “true”. I wanted so badly for her to focus and listen my song.

In Wagang Village, all families were asked to contribute to the new village church opening. This was last Christmas. Monetary contribution was at the forefront of this event. In the past when I was growing up, each family whether they were crafts people, hunters or fisherman would be invited to contribute what they had, made and grew. Not anymore. Money was first.

“I may not have enough to give to the church so I wanted to gift a song,” I said. That sentence went to a silent respond. I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad. I suspected it wasn’t what she anticipated. Perhaps there was more to the silence that I wasn’t aware of.

I let the silent pass. In the background I heard my sister scolding my nephew. I didn’t want to ask my mother why my sister was doing that.

I had composed this song one afternoon at my studio. It just happened. And tonight was the first my mother heard of it. She probably expected me to just send some money. She waited for me to explain.

“I will sing it for you Ma,” I said in Bukawac. “I had composed this song for the opening and you and your sisters can sing it on our behalf”.

“Okay” she said.

The church project was instigated by the provincial government in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea. The villagers had been waiting for a church for over three decades. The first church was built by the people themselves – each family contributed the materials showing their craftsmanship through handwoven walls, brackets of pulled and dried rattan, carved seats, and hand sewn sago palm leaves. It was a church none of us growing up with it would ever forget because of its aesthetic beauty and the fabric of a cohesive and supporting community sewn together. In time the church building deteriorated. The maintenance did not happen. The relationships in leadership, the respect between the elders and the younger generation became difficult to maintain and the cohesiveness slowly came apart. Termites slowly and quietly menaced their way into what was left of the handcrafted building. It was sad.

“Ma! Are you there?” I asked her.

“Mnem!” (Sing!) she said. I gathered my thoughts. I was only singing to my mother, but it suddenly felt like I was about to face a grand stand with thousands of people.

My mother is known in our family and the community for her music. She was the composer of original songs and songs she translated from different languages into ours – Bukawac and Yabem. Her music contributes to the Lutheran church for openings, ‘sam katong’, large church gatherings of multiple congregations, and many village events. She was a trained muscian. Germans during the colonial era taught her flute, guitar, harmonica and singing at Bula Girls School, not only did she get trained by Germans to nurse, but also to sing and play numerous instruments. The flute was and still is her favourite.

“It’s called “Conversation with God,” I gave her the title. “It’s between God and I,” I said.

“Mnem!,” mnem ma au wangu”, she said. “Sing! Sing it so I can hear it”, she said and although she softly spoke, I detected the excitement in her voice.

“Ae ngoc geng masi, ae ngoc ming masi, ae gameng gebe yagung yawing aom.” (I have nothing, no words, but I came to sit with you).

I sang the first verse and chorus and then stopped and there wasn’t a single sound from the phone. I wrote the song in Yabem. This was the ‘church language’ like many church hymns – they were in Yabem. I learnt this language by listening to my mother, her parents and two brothers speak it to each other. My grandfather was a teacher and most of his teachings were in Yabem. My late Uncle Kwaslim mostly communicated in Yabem – it was his favourite language.

“Mama! Mama!” I called into the phone.

“I’m here”, she said.

“Did you like the song?”

She was very quiet. Then she said, “It’s beautiful! I don’t know what else to say”.

Three months later my mother tells me that she also composed a song for the opening and she sings it over the phone to me. It was very beautiful – but that is another story.

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(If you like my stories, please share them). I thank you all for being here. If you’re new to my blog – welcome! For all my friends who have been with me for a while, I appreciate you and I want to sincerely thank you for your patience. I have been away for a long while and working on other projects. I will share the news here soon.

How a Jiwaka woman started a journey of community transformation before her death


A community champion leaves an example life for all as she bids farewell. An inspiring and heart-breaking story from Serahphina Aupong on Scott Waide’s blog.

Artist Joycelin Leahy Launches Art Website


I have launched my art website: http://www.joycelinleahy.com

We all have passion and dreams, and I’m so proud to be able to share one of mine with you – through my art. Thank you for being part of my network in this beautiful world. My current batch of work is concentrated in Papua New Guinea, where I’m from. I can produce work on any subjects. The website is also a sample of websites my team can build and this service is available.

To be an e-commerce website was not smooth sailing as I had initially thought. Life as an artist itself is not easy, just like our lives as writers, and doing something you love doesn’t often put your meals on your table nor pay your mortgage. But we cannot give in, as creators, it is important to live our purpose and share what we are gifted with and enjoy through sharing the joy it brings to others.

There is one person this site would not have been possible without his help, and that person is Fateh Singh from Mind Tech Solutions. Thank you for your constant patience with a very fiery passionate and often impatient artist.

Please visit http://www.joycelinleahy.com and if you have any feedback – let me know on, joycelinleahy@gmail.com. You can also comment right here on this blog post.

If you can, I’d appreciate all my blog followers, contacts, friends and family members sharing this link http://www.joycelinleahy.com with your own network so I can get my art across the world.

You will find mostly limited edition prints and my fashion collection on the website. Original paintings and commission work including portraits are available, please contact me for prices.

New watercolour artwork above – “Muruk” a large cassowary (ground bird) and below two framed watercolour originals from my Solo Art Exhibition at the Royal Papua Yacht Club, Port Moresby, in November 2017, Papua New Guinea.

 

#PNG Earthquake death toll now at 75 and climbing


Death toll reaches 75 and still counting. Major earthquake in Papua New Guinea (measuring 7.5) over a week ago with two major aftershocks leaves devastation throughout remote parts of Hela and Southern Highlands Province. There is uncertainty on the amount of damage and casualties without access, however, large areas of food gardens have been destroyed and this will cause food shortage in the coming weeks. PNG journalist Scott Waide has this update.

Judged Five Best Short Story Entries for 2017 Crocodile Prize Competition


Short Story finalists from the Crocodile Prize – Papua New Guinea’s national annual literary competition.

Crocodile Prize PNG

Below are the five best short stories entered for the Short Story Category of the 2017 Crocodile Prize Competition. The numbers of the short stories entered for the 2017 Crocodile Prize Competition was low compared to the previous years. But the quality has been outstanding. The story lines and characters were better developed. The stories were better organised so the build-up to a climax were deliberate and entertaining. The emerging writers have also come from a more diverse background. Electricians to carpenters and Literature students of the University of Papua New Guinea and more. Several of these are first timers who do not identify themselves as writers. The following titles below were the selected short list of the winners after the long process of filing, culling and judging. Only one more process is left, that is: Selection of the overall winner among the 5 winners as identified by the judges.

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The Art of a Doctor: Powesiu Lawes


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.

Dr Powesiu Lawes on the beach at his beloved Loniu Village, Manus, Papua New Guinea.

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. Pen and Ink drawing by Dr Powesiu Lawes, Papua New Guinea artist

 

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.

“Traditional Wealth in Transaction”. Pen and Ink drawing by Dr Powesiu Lawes, Papua New Guinea artist

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melanesian Wantok Showcase – Art and Music


Melanesian Wantok Showcase

Limited edition prints, paintings and bliums, a collection of art at the Redlands performance Art Centre, Queensland.

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

J.K.Leahy Textile. A contemporary interpretation of the traditional tapa cloth printed on cotton. 2017.

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

This is the first time ever artist Dr Pomasiu Lawes will be showing his pen and ink drawings. This blog will feature some of these artwork and stories that accompany each one, in the near future.

 

A taste of Melanesia in Cleveland

Head along to Redland Performing Arts Centre (RPAC) for a night of Melanesian music and culture when WANTOK Musik performs 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).

Gum Ladies – Making Art From Natural Pigments


This is one of 50 artworks I have made. It is a collection of “gum ladies” (as I referred to this art, painted from gum pigments I’ve made from my backyard). They are all females, but I will paint some males later. It is easier for me to experiment with the female ‘mood’.

A friend curator visited and suggested that I have a solo exhibition, because “they are strong”. Another curator said, “he loved the quietly vibrant feelings embedded”.  I had really planned to show the gum ladies in a community exhibition next month, in Brisbane, but the work is taking its own course. I am very happy.

The work is painted like watercolour and sealed to hold the pigments. Once exhibited, originals and limited edition prints will be available for sale here.

Let me know your thoughts about my experiment that has now grown into something else.