Papua New Guinea
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PNG wood carver honoured

A majestic totem, meticulously carved by Kauwi, will soon find its place on the façade of the Melanesian Spearhead Secretariat (MSG) head office in Port Vila.

This momentous project is part of the ongoing 7th Melanesian Arts and Culture Festival, where wood carvers from various Melanesian Island States, including Fiji, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, and Vanuatu itself, are also actively engaged in crafting their respective totems for display.

The installation of new totems became a necessity after the removal of the previous ones, which had stood there for years but were posing a safety risk due to natural wear and tear. Leonard Lomai, the Director General of the MSG Secretariat, emphasized the importance of addressing the safety concerns, "We had to take them down otherwise they might fall on somebody, and people will be claiming compensation from us and the Secretariat."

Highlighting the cultural significance of the totems, Lomai explained that a ritual ceremony would be conducted before mounting the new totems on the MSG head office façade. These beautifully crafted artifacts are far more than just artistic pieces; they are believed to represent protective spirits for the Secretariat.

"For the Vanuatuans, and just like all our MSG countries, we regard these totems and artefacts not just simple artefacts, but they represent spirits that protect the Secretariat," stated Lomai.

He added, "So, it is for that reason a lot of effort has been made to respectfully conduct events that would signify our respect to mount those artefacts on and call on our spirits to come back and look over and cast their protective wings over the Secretariat."

In response to the honour of being chosen to leave his legacy in Vanuatu, Jack Kauwi expressed humility and gratitude towards the National Cultural Commission for their support in facilitating his participation in the 7th Melanesian Arts and Culture Festival in Port Vila.

Hailing from Tambunum village in the Angoram District of East Sepik Province in Papua New Guinea, Kauwi's craftsmanship has earned him recognition and respect among his peers and art enthusiasts.

The ongoing festival continues to celebrate the diverse cultural heritage of the Melanesian region, fostering cultural exchange and understanding among the participating nations.

With the impending installation of the totems, the MSG Secretariat's façade will soon bear witness to the rich artistic and spiritual traditions that have shaped the identity of these Melanesian societies.