An Australian volunteer who was doing whatever volunteers do in PNG.
I was there for 2 years until Dec 2005 .. I hope I made the most of it.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Cultural Desecration

Somebody slap me because I am just astounded at the lunacy of some Papua New Guineans at the moment.

In a cultural desecration of ones own national identity that must rank with the Taleban blowing up the Bamiyan Buddhas, this morning I stumbled across a university 'maintenance' employee taking to the university library's original fa├žade artwork with an angle grinder.

Upon seeing (and hearing) I was just dumbfounded. How can this sort of thing happen? Who could authorise this sort of thing to happen? I actually couldn't believe what I was seeing and since then I have been struggling for words to describe how I feel. I will have a go though; flabbergasted, staggered, shocked, aghast, disbelieving ... the adjectives go on.

The regime of lunacy and removing anything on campus that gets in the way has been going on in earnest throughout the year. It started with the massacre of the massive rain trees, it then passed to the boulder which bears the original plaque from the opening of the uni in the sixties, the natural granite look was bizarrely painted white, and now it has moved on to the David Lasisi creation which had been left peacefully alone for the past 27 years. It has obviously been deemed unworthy to grace this 'esteemed' establishment.

I wrote tongue in cheek about the library only a little while ago but my attention didn't focus on the outside artwork that adorns the front. Perhaps I should correct this. The artwork ironically signifies PNGs fading beliefs (an area in the centre of the motif) being swamped by current trends and fashions. It was designed, created and erected by David J Lasisi in December 1977. I hope nobody now informs him that the painting is worthless and is being ground off the building.

The stupidity of this action stretches so far and wide that it is hard to grasp how anyone could be that, well, stupid. Disregarding the cultural significance for a second the fact that the panels which the motif is painted on are in fact asbestos makes a good case not to go anywhere near it with something that will finely disperse the fibres into the air (our employee with the grinder of course was fully protected for this task in a typical PNG way - with a pair of sunglasses only).

Then there are the financial considerations (which would never have occurred). If you really wanted to get rid of the artwork, why not just remove and replace the panels. The panels then could at least be sold or given to a national institution to be displayed. Instead the pea brains at work decide to grind it off.

Thankfully this whole thing may be stopped before it goes too far. The architecture department has taken up arms, including my next-door neighbour and custodian of the Architectural Heritage Centre. Questions are being asked to the top, and answers will hopefully come as to who ordered it. Hopefully the damage may be limited yet.


The concerned action group taking a closer look