Mt Hagen - Papua New Guinea Festival

In the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, self-decoration is associated with festivals and ceremonies where people reinforce their identity as members of a group or clan. One of the most important occasions for ceremonial display is the Mount Hagen Festival where people from many different language groups in the Highlands gather every year in full decoration.

This Festival and the Goroka Show were started in the 1950s by the first European settlers in the Highlands to encourage enemies of different clans to gather to reconcile group animosities. Particular combinations of body painting, wigs, feather headdresses, necklaces, armbands, aprons, ear and nose rings signify who you are and where you are from.

By midday, the arena, which was the size of a football field, was packed with painted men and women, storming across the grass in line abreast, spears cocked for action, and painted, coiffed and decorated with the fluffy plumage of several thousand exotic birds....

White-out and brilliant acrylics are used as face paint, cooking oil adds that lustrous shine to the body and although I did not see any glitter paint used at the 1998 Mount Hagen show, you can't help feeling that it's only a matter of time.
Michael Gebicki, 'Australian Gourmet Traveller', May 1999


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