The Mt. Hagen Show in pictures

An outer-worldly experience

There’s little I can say about the Mt. Hagen Show in the highlands of Papua New Guinea that would get remotely close to depicting the experience of being there. In a nutshell, I was in the middle of what felt like an old National Geographic documentary. Thousands of miles away from what we call civilization, plenty of body paint, leaf skirts, chanting to the rhythm of the home-made drums, synchronized movements of the hips. Beyond the nutshell, the festival is a way of bringing peace to tribes otherwise used to resorting to the machete for conflict resolution.member of the Huli tribe from the Tari village, at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG

the Taris are known to have a short fuse; at the show they were singing, but not smiling too much

Getting ready

Some tribes arrived at the show ready for the party. They came with the truck having all the facepaint, outfits and headpieces in place. Others were on the festival grounds hours early to get ready at the location. Some were applying face paint, others were assembling the headpieces or lathering themselves in vegetal oil to make the skin shine. I was mesmerized by the headdresses. On a base of moss in a knitted cap, feathers or even preserved hole birds wer placed craftily to create the look for their tribe. I’ve seen different types of parrots and birds of paradise. When not worn, the feathers and birds are stored individually wrapped in newspaper.

tribe arriving at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
tribe arriving at the Mt. Hagen Show grounds
man applying facepaint at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
man applying facepaint
women applying facepaint at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
women applying facepaint
ready for the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
ready for the show
stunning headpiece (with whole birds) at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
stunning headpiece (can you see the whole birds?)
elaborate costume at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
elaborate facepaint, necklace and headpiece made of feathers and full birds

The Mt. Hagen Show action

The show itself was set on what looked like a rugby field. The participants would prepare in an area outside the field and when it was their turn they would join a queue of singing and dancing groups making their way towards the entrance and then around the perimeter of the field. After arriving in front of the main tribune (where the officials sat), they would find a spot on the field where they would continue their performance.

women singing and drumming at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
women singing and drumming
portrait at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
not sure if it was their act, but boy, do they look scary… until you see the Christmas decoration necklace 🙂
the sing-sing group in action at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
the sing-sing group in action
human hair headpieces at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
the headpieces they are wearing are made of human hair
sing-sing group at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
the show is a whirlpool of color, drumming, chanting
women at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
women’s sing-sing from the Highlands
the Chimbu skeletons trying to scare people at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
the Chimbu skeletons trying to scare people attending the show
skeleton men at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
the tradition of their bodypaint comes from a story involving a monster that attacked their village and would also kill anybody who got close to his cave; so the Chimbu people painted their bodies to look like skeletons and as the monster thought they were already dead, they could get close enough to kill him
skeleton kid at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
even the kids are getting in the character
facepaint portrait at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
intricate facepaint and necklace made out of beads, seeds and shells
woman at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
most of the tribes in the area around Mt. Hagen have facepainting with red, white and blue and the crescent shape on the chest
child portrait at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
children participate with full rights in the show

The downtime

smoking in the downtime at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
smoking in the downtime (did you spot the smartphone?)
the famous Asaro Mudmen at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
a member of the famous Asaro Mudmen holding his mask
mudman mud mask at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
the mud masks are heavy and the Mudmen mostly held them (rather than wear them on their heads)
Mudman mini-mask for tourists at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
one of the Mudmen holding a mini-mask made to sell to tourists
leaves, facepaint, feathers and seed beads outfit for the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
woman wearing leaves, facepaint, feathers and seed beads outfit is waiting for her turn in the show
member of the Huli tribe from the Tari village, at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
member of the Huli tribe from the Tari village in between dances
an impressive costume, with a massive headpiece made from over 30 birds of paradise and a necklace made of cuscus possum jaws at the Mt. Hagen Show in Papua New Guinea PNG
man watching the performances in an impressive costume. he is wearing a massive headpiece made from over 30 birds of paradise and a necklace made of cuscus possum jaws
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