PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Nov. 22) - The provincial capital of Milne Bay, Alotau, this year hosted the inaugural 2004 National Kundu and Canoe Festival in a panorama of various canoes styles, paddles and colorful canoe prow designs and competitive spirit with a promise of bigger and better festival next year.

The festival revived the culture and rituals of canoe-making and canoe seamanship among the young Milne Bay generation of men.

Canoes are the main mode of transportation among the Milne Bay islands in Papua New Guinea and mainland with the Alotau, Samarai Murua, Rabaraba and Kiriwina Goodenough districts covering 252,000 square kilometers of sea which have 160 inhabited islands and atolls and 450 uninhabited islands and atolls.

The Milne Bay island archipelagos make the province a seafaring one with outrigger canoes sailing between the islands about 150 years ago.

Canoes were also used in the Kula Trading Ring for many years.

The waters of Milne Bay are also renowned for their huge fish population. It is classified as one of the world’s known biodiversity grounds with 13,000 square kilometers of reefs.

Thirty-two canoe associations participated at the festival.

In July, PNG Tourism Promotion Authority marketing manager Jim Yomapisi launched the canoe and kundu festival at the Masurina Lodge, with the theme "Discover Milne Bay."

The festival is one of five initiated by the National Cultural Commission to be held every year. It has the full backing and support of the Milne Bay Tourism Bureau (MBTB).

Milne Bay province has already hosted the successful Cameron Secondary School Cultural Show in Alotau and the Milamala Festival on the Trobriand Islands, both in July.

The canoe and kundu festival ended on Sunday, Nov. 7, with a traditional welcome of two war canoes - called Gebos - by Wagawaga villagers watched by a huge crowd.

The womenfolk danced and brought taro to the official dias before a Wagawaga village elder presented a new canoe paddle to the 2004 Canoe and Kundu Festival committee chairman, John Kaniku.

Kaniku said the paddle was a symbol of strength, and gave the assurance that the festival would continue for many more years to come.

Kaniku then passed the paddle to the Milne Bay Tourism chairman, Johnathan Sowelu.

Sowelu said the paddle signified the Milne Bay people’s way of life.

He said during the past two days the people travelled the paths of their forefathers.

He congratulated everyone that contributed to the success of the festival.

Most of the focus during the event in Alotau was on the canoe and not the kundu. However, the festival did embrace the kundu component with an exhibition held at the Napatana Lodge.

Kaniku welcomed all comments and suggestions and said the committee would take note and improve the festival next year.

Various prizes were awarded to the winners, second and third place getters as well as consolation prizes to the nine categories of canoes.

Each of the 32 canoe associations was presented with a certificate of participation and K300 each.

Meanwhile, NCC marketing, festivals and cultural extension services director Vagi Onnevagi pointed out to the participants "culture cannot be judged, because everyone is a winner in your own right."

He predicted an increased participation in the future, especially from other coastal villages along the Papuan coast.

The committee has been self-supporting with the generous support of Milne Bay communities living In Port Moresby, Lae, Tabubil, Kimbe, Porgera, Lihir and Alotau.

Funds also came from the Milne Bay government and National Cultural Commission, PNG Tourism Promotion Authority and the business houses.

The provincial government contributed K15,000, PNGTPA K5,000 while NCC chipped in with K10,000.

November 23, 2004

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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