Sunday, 6 April 2014

Indulging my other passion...

Cockpit of a 1924 Bugatti Type 35

In case you think I have gone quiet for a serious reason, you might like to click on this link where I have been indulging my other passion - classic car racing.

Toodle pip!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Papua New Guinean Highland violence is not found in the beautiful Island Provinces

Click on to enlarge for a superior image

A carving by the great New Ireland  (Papua New Guinea) Master Carver, Edward Sale, from the island of Tabar contemplates the Polish winter

I am not entirely sure of the motivation of the Daily Mail in running this sensationalist story today (12 February 2014) apart from a gratuitous and prurient need to shock and sell newspapers. It is a grossly unfair picture of the great majority of warm, hospitable and friendly Papua New Guineans I met on my travels. Melanesian culture is one of the most ancient and most harmonious on the planet. I can see the same exaggeration in operation extrapolating violence to the majority of Muslims from the murderous absurdities of extremists. But it sells newspapers and the media are satisfied they have technicolor copy.

The study of isolated cases of perversion considered as being the behavioral norm in Western society (as presented by the Daily Mail) would give a curious picture indeed of the lives of 'quiet desperation' most people inhabit. I would be interested to hear what a Melanesian anthropologist might make of our society - Henley Royal Regatta for example!

You may have come across another story around the same time last year (8th April 2013) the content of which I found deeply shocking although unsurprising in view of my studies and travels there. Perhaps it is the annual PNG shock-fest on the part of the Mail. Certainly it paints a grossly unfair picture and ruins tourism. Non-Europeans are seldom caught up in this sort of thing and most of the country is fervently Christian. People have been gasping about PNG since Captain Cook briefly passed by there aboard the Endeavour in the days where there was a passion for the 'ocular proof' of cannibalism.

I was shocked to read of the rape on KarKar Island (April 21st 2013 ) The following describes it :

The author Michael Moran on KarKar Island in 2002 - happier and more peaceful times. Such a beautiful part of the world and such friendly people. I find the present reports of violence hard to understand. 

It seems that Highland Papua New Guinea has become very dangerous indeed. I must say I really did not find that at all - quite the opposite in the Island Provinces but then I travelled there ten years ago. The Island Provinces are not the Highlands. PNG is an enormous place and cannot possibly be considered as homogeneous. That is the problem. An inappropriate Westminster style of government has been grafted upon a culture made up of a huge number of culturally significantly different tribes lumped together as 'Papua New Guinea'.

In my book Beyond the Coral Sea: Travels in the Old Empires of the South-West Pacific (London 2003 - and still in print) I seriously, rather than sensationally, examine in great detail the fascinating subject of witchcraft and sorcery in Papua New GuineaSuch beliefs still live strongly in many hearts despite the predominantly fervent Christian society that prevails. Often both beliefs are held in tandem by certain individuals. I also examine in detail the complex question of cannibalism - another subject grossly distorted in significance. (English)   (Polish)

I wrote this book specifically about the rarely described beautiful and peaceful Island Provinces of Papua New Guinea (as opposed to the Highlands). My book was the first in 100 years since the great work by Richard Parkinson entitled Thirty Years in the South Seas. I was so proud the book was short-listed for the 25th and final Thomas Cook Travel Book Award in 2004. 

Also see for some beautiful Melanesians rather than those wretched pictures...

Incidentally the demise of this prize is a great and unremarked loss to the world of travel writing. It made some attempt to maintain high literary standards in this peculiarly English  genre. Now we swim in a welter of mediocre travel writing (with a very few notable exceptions). Publishers steer well clear of travel authors today. Anything trivial, 'quirky', egocentric or on a motorcycle (or all four) is in vogue with little or no serious, detailed cultural or historical input concerning the vast areas travelled and the people who have inhabited them for hundreds of years.