Saturday, August 15, 2009

Paiya Sing Sing

With the Mt. Hagen festival set to commence tomorrow, tribes from all around the country are making their way to the Mt. Hagen area. About a dozen of them gathered today in a nearby village for a sing sing (performance). And, we were invited.

We arrived early to watch the performers apply make up and prepare costumes. Most of the materials and body paints seem to be original and sourced some how from the plants, animals or the earth. Here and there, you can find evidence of civilization - one of my favorites was the use of rear and sideview mirors (no longer in the vehicle) as handheld mirrors. Costumes and makeup were incredible. Feathers of all colours. Wigs made of human hair. Furs. Photos will come.

I watched the others in the group with their fancy cameras. Each person seemed to have a different approach to taking photos - some going for the face shots, others focused on the entire scene. The one commonality among them was a total inhibition about getting in to take the picture. Some would even choreograph a photo - grabbing a subject and assisting them in a pose. I think they will end up with much better shots; however, I am struggling with whether that is truly capturing the point. Then again, some of them are here with a professional purpose in their photography. I am here as a spectator.

One of the charming things about the people here is their handshake. Everyone shakes your hand. Even strangers. And, it's a real handshake. One that lingers. It's kind of awkward at first, if you come from where I do, where physical contact between people is kept to a minimum. But I like it now. It removes the distance between people.

I've gone from one end of the spectrum to another, it seems. I'm now staying at the nicest hotel in town, I have organized things to do during the day, and I have the companionship of other tourists. My loneliness during the first couple of days made things hard for me. I like being in the company of other people, though there is something lost in the experience when you are surrounded with too much familiarity. Likewise, staying at a fancy hotel does nothing to help me to understand a place. This hotel is basically a compound, protected by a 9 foot gate with razorwire on top and a guarded gate to restrict entry.

The tour group was larger today and will remain so for the duration of my trip. I have connected with a few people in particular - Bob (a Canadian living in Australia), Allan (an Englishman living in Australia), and Emmanuel (a Frenchman living in Dubai). My recent move to Singapore qualified me to be part of the group. They are all clearly photography enthusiasts, so I am hoping to learn a few things over the coming days. So far, I've learned that even masters of their craft have different perspectives on how things should be done.


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