Magazine article New Internationalist

[Contemporary Art in Papua New Guinea]

Magazine article New Internationalist

[Contemporary Art in Papua New Guinea]

Article excerpt

Contemporary Art in Papua New Guinea

by Susan Chochrane with a contribution by Michael A Mel (Craftsman House, Sydney, ISBN 905 703 23 17)

At first you might find Contemporary Art in Papua New Guinea a little dispiriting - if you can afford it, that is, at around $70.

To be sure there are plenty of the striking images you might expect from one of the most extraordinary places on earth. But there are also a lot of helicopters in the paintings, tipping death and destruction onto the benighted souls below. The textile designer Marie Ahi, beset by the anxieties of her village, fell prey to listlessness in the town and abandoned her art. Kauage Mathias sees himself, among other things, as a 'family art business' flogging instant appeal to tourists.

Then, with the contribution of Michael A Mel, the book is transformed. You understand that the true 'art' of Papua New Guinea is present largely in bilas, or self - adornment - a system of self - expression that is yet subtle, adaptive and exuberant beyond the capacity of consumer culture even to imagine. …

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