Cultural Shows in Papua New Guinea

The rich culture of Papua New Guinea varies greatly from area to area, and each province has its own special rituals for celebrating the various rites of marriage, death and initiation. Traditional dress draws heavily from the natural environment, making use of tree barks, natural dyes and pigments, animal bones, shells and bird feathers – in particular the colourful plumes of the bird of paradise. Local cultures are celebrated in the annual ‘sing sing’ shows, which provide a unique opportunity for visitors to experience traditional song and dance.

This diverse country is famous for its spectacular cultural shows, or 'sing sings', and villagers often travel hundreds of kilometres to take part in these displays of traditional dance and song. The country's best known festivals are the Goroka and Mount Hagen Cultural Shows. Competing tribes are judged on their skill and creativity, and the shows are so popular that accommodation bookings often have to be made a year in advance.

MountHagen Cultural Show - August
Every August, tribes from all over Papua New Guinea converge upon Mt Hagen in the Western Highlands province for this huge festival. The show was begun in the 1950s by missionaries as a way of improving relations between the different tribes, and today, continues to celebrate tribal history and traditions. Tribespeople come in bilas (full traditional costumes) with stunning face tattoos, body paint, elaborate headdresses and shell breastplates. You will find yourself captivated by the rhythm and colour as dancers whirl to the sound of the beating drums. There are also musical presentations, cultural activities and an agricultural fair.

Enga Festival, Enga - August
Held in August, this is a scaled-down version of the Goroka Show, but still an impressive sight. The Cultural Centre at Wabag also has a museum, art gallery and a workshop where you can watch young artists making sand paintings, an art form unique to Enga Province. Wigs, masks and war shields from Enga and many parts of the country can be seen in the museum. The centre is open from 9am–4pm weekdays.

Goroka Show - September
Picture 40,000 painted warriors dancing to the rhythmic thud of the Kundu drums and you have just one of the highlights of the The Goroka Show in the Eastern Highlands province. One of the biggest in Papua New Guinea, this popular festival can attract up to 140,000 people from more than 80 tribes around the country. Wearing colourful traditional dress, including face and body paint, feathers, shells and masks, tribes gather at Goroka for a weekend of music, dancing and tribal displays. For two days and two nights, the sound of drums resounds throughout the hills as tribespeople perform traditional dances, their bodies painted in oil and pig grease. There is also an agricultural fair and a Miss Goroka Show beauty pageant.

Hiri Moale Festival, Port Moresby - September 
Held in mid-September, around Independence Day, Port Morseby’s most important festival celebrates the traditional trading that took place along the coast. Replicas of the lakatois, the giant canoes that were used, pull up on Ela Beach to dancing and singing.

Goroka Show, Eastern Highlands - September 
Each year on Independence Day in mid-September thousands of painted tribespeople bedecked in feathers, grass skirts and other traditional costumes come together for a huge ‘sing sing’. There are ground-shaking dances, bands and other cultural attractions – a sight not to be missed.

Useful websites
  • For more information about PNG destinations and cultural events, email PNG Tourism Promotion Authority on info@pngtourism.org.pg or visit www.pngtourism.org.pg
  • For more information about special cultural events, contact the National Cultural Commission, PO Box 7144 Boroko, NCD, phone (675) 323 5111 or (675) 323 119; fax (675) 325 9119; email culture@daltron.com.pg
  • For destination information on Papua New Guinea and special hot deals on accommodation, visit www.jasons.com
  • For flight information, see www.airniugini.com.pg