Delve into any culture from any country, anywhere in the world and at its very core, one will find art. The importance of art cannot be overstated. Traditional art forms have the power to connect someone to their culture while simultaneously promoting a sense of individuality. It can provide a sense of identity, empower people, evoke spirits, tell tales and so much more. Traditional art illuminates our soul and enlivens our emotions. PNG is home to an eclectic range of traditional art and one will find extreme variations of the same medium depending on the country’s region, tribal group and even from village to village. One art form where this is exceptionally prominent is traditional wood carving.
In PNG, many of the traditional sculptured artefacts are wood carvings, rather than sculptures of stone or metal. This could be attributed to the fact that many Papua New Guineans have an intricate knowledge of the trees and it is often said that the spirit of a tree being felled to produce a wood carving is transferred to the finished piece of art. I find this sentiment lingering in my mind each time I view a traditional wood carving and it’s quite powerful. Adding to this powerful and seemingly spiritual experience is the fact that in most cases, the intricate shapes and patterns found in traditional wood carvings are performed by a clan’s elders, who possess the specific skills and knowledge required to perform such a significant cultural task.