Sunday, October 31, 2010

Coffee Time

The art school staff survived on coffee and it was fortuitous that the Goroka Coffee factory was just up the road.

We left it to brew on the drip filter system throughout the day until its consitency resembled a weak mud.
Twelve cups a day was the normal ration, little wonder that I had at one stage to resort to sleeping tablets at night as the arabica coursed through my veins.

Spraying Coffee
When the wind was in the right direction the air was filled with the aroma of roasting coffee; one of the great sensory delights.

PNG is well known for its coffee and tea production.  The latter can be found in large plantations further up the Highway towards Mount Hagen, but the Eastern Highlands with a stable year-round temperature of 26 degrees and a height of 1,600 meters above sea level is ideal for coffee growing.

Picking Coffee At The Red Cherry tage
Not all coffee is grown on large plantations. Small holdings are found in most villages and a common sight were the coffee beans laid out on blue tarpaulins to dry in the hot sun. The coffee is washed and fermented in vats. The beans on the tarpaulins is riffled through by human toes, turning them during the drying process.

Kopi Meri
Once the beans has been dried they were tranported to the factory.  There they were graded according to quality and roasted.  Large consignments were sent abroad before roasting and this is probably still the case.
Factory Worker

The conditions inside the factory were dickensian with a lot of dust, poor visibility and poorly shielded industrial equipment.
But at the very least there was employment and a source of income for the villagers who came to work there.
Several of these photographs were used in a corporate calendar for Goroka Coffee.  I had been commissioned by the company to produce a small portfolio for this purpose.
Grading belt

Bagging  Ready For Transport
Life on the coffee plantations was quite removed from the local environment. Many of the estate owners fratenised little with the indigenous locals; theirs was a world tied up with the estate and broken only by trips 'South'.

While many plantations had been "nationalised" at independence there remained a significant number still being run by expatriates who had become citizens of Paupua New Guinea, or their offspring.

The one that I visited most was owned by George Brough. George bought one of my tribal fight paintings at a Goroka Bowling cLub auction that the Art School held each year to raise funds.  If I recall correctly his wife hated the work as she found it too violent!

As was a common security measure, George owned several cross breed dogs which were allowed to roam the plantations to deter would-be coffee thieves.

One particular dog was called Fugly (because was F...Ugly, according to his owner).  A blue heeler / bulldog cross breed, once Fugly bit something he never let go.  His jaws had to be prized apart with a large piece of timber.

On a few estates they had a cruel method of imprinting hatred of of pretty thieves on young dogs.

Puppies were put in a large coffee sack held by a National employee.  The sack was then beaten severely with a stick and when the puppies emerged the first person they saw (and acquainted with the attack) was the unfortunate holder of the sack.

The growing of marijuana for local consumption was also a common practise amongst the coffee rows.  While it wasn't a hobby of mine, those who puffed it claimed it to be some of the strongest weed in the world, especially the "seed heads".

Ken, the art school potter, reportedly had on one occasion made some cookies for a staff which he laced with the hallucinogenic herb.

The Sister of the order of nuns who ran the Technical College's Secretarial College evidently sampled these;  with what dire effects I do not know, as this happened shortly before my arrival in Goroka.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Friday, October 29, 2010

The School Of Art And Design

Third Year Art and Design Students - 1980
The art school was part of Goroka Technical College in the Eastern Highlands. The Tech. also housed mechanical engineering and woodworking workshops for training Nationals to become tradesmen and a Secretarial College.

Students came from all over PNG to train at Goroka Technical College. In the case of the School of Art and Design we took secondary school graduates and prepared them for careers in media, advertsing and (in a few cases)careers as fulltime artists.

As Head of School I was supported by colleagues who came from the far flung corners of the earth. These even included a former lighthouse keeper from Canada.

Ken Kazanjian was young Philadelphia potter of Armenian descent who had been appointed by my Australian predecessor. While very much a free spirit, he did some marvelous work with students, building a free standing pottery using a combination of a traditonal Kunai grass thatched roof, timber frames and concrete foundations.

Inside the Pottery

Ken also constructed a large updraft kiln in which we fired the student's work. Having produced some ceramics myself I was aware of the Japanese anagama kilms and the one he built in Goroka was similar.

Some of the pottery graduates went to work in the Kainantu Pottery which was further down the Highlands Highway in the Eastern Highlands, travelling towards Lae.

Joseph Bin
Georg Schmidt was an equally passionate German sculptor who took 3D classes with students and Len Tindall, a British silversmith from Blackpool trained students in basic jewllery making. Len made a fine black coral and silver 'mask' pendant based on one of my sketched designs. I recall he was married to a Mauritian wife and when they "went finis" they resettled in Brighton or Bognor Regis.

The sole national tutor was Willie Stevens. Willi's main claim to fame was that he had designed the national currency. He was a charming man from Lalaua in  Milne Bay and highly regarded by the students who sort to emulate his success.

And I must not forget our trusty storeman Joesph Bin, an Eastern Highlander with a pierced septum (pictured right) and the ability to keep the students firmly under control.

As most of our art supplies had to be ordered months before from overseas and trucked up the Highlands Highway from the port of Lae it was a constant battle to stay within budget and keep programmes going, but manage we did.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, October 25, 2010


Click on the flipbook to view

This is a small selection of images from PNG days.  

A Life Changing Experience

Eastern Highlands Flag
In 1979 I left New Zealand to head Papua New Guinea's only regional art school in Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province.

Being younger and still idealistic I felt the need to experience truly living in an indigenous culture as one of a minority; the reverse of my then circumstances in Rotorua where I was teaching art at Lakes High School.

It was also the first time I had travelled out of New Zealand and spending a stop over night at the YMCA in Sydney was a revelation with some of the largest cockroaches I had ever seen.

It was in hindsight a good introduction to the fauna I would alter experience in PNG but no where near as exotic.

QANTAS was the carrier and in later years I flew back and forth on Air New Guinea, an airline that I undertook professional photographic assignments for as time allowed.

Landing at Jackson Airport, Port Moresby was also my first introduction to the oppressive humidity of a tropical climate. I can still recall the sensation of the humidity greeting me as a stepped down the gangway and on to the tarmac. There were no air bridges in those days and customs formalities took place in a large covered concourse with eating fans in the ceiling.

The domestic airline flights where carried out by both Air Nuigini and a private company, Talair. The latter were often referred to as "Crash Air" which was rather unfair as their safety record was as good as could be expected flying smaller fixed wing planes in and out of highland airstrips.

Landing would often take place in steeply inclined strips and if I remember correctly, Wabag was one of these. Take off was a sudden acceleration down the strip and over what appear to be a precipice.

Later I got to know several of the Nuigini Helicopter and Talair pilots and flew in the co pilots jump seat in the twin otter aircraft from Goroka to Madang and return, over the Ramu valley.

Approaching the Dalau Pass one could discern the glint of metal in the undergrowth, evidence of a previous air disaster where a plane had navigated incorrectly through the narrow entrance and into the low cloud and mist of the Highlands.

It was fun and seat-of-the-pants flying and many of the Talair pilots were Jumbo jet crew who came to PNG to fly in their holidays and get in some "real flying".

The pilots told tales of tribesmen who had never flown attempting to eat the hand wipe towelettes in the mistaken belief that these were the in-flight meal.

View Larger Map

I was determined not to lead an isolated expat existence and to get as much from my time in PNG as I could, mixing with the locals and learning their life and customs.  There had been people living in the Eastern Highlands for the past 18,000 years and the first Europeans only made contact in the late 1920's, so there was plenty of local culture to assimilate.

Papua New Guinea was a life changing experience in more ways than one. In the intervening thirty years I have come to realise how this first contract in the tropics changed my life forever.
Enhanced by Zemanta