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Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > Papua New Guinea: Destruction of famous pieces of indigenous art, demands (...)

Papua New Guinea: Destruction of famous pieces of indigenous art, demands for PNG to become a Christian nation.

Monday 10 February 2014, by siawi3

26 Jan 2013

Source: from “D. N., in a posting to ASAONET, 26 Jan 2014”

A very brief summary.

The lintel was removed and cut into a number of pieces (apparently on 26 Nov). These are now in the Museum. Although the Prime Minister said he had stopped the destruction, the Speaker tried to remove the “totem pole” inside the Parliament House. Parts were apparently cut off, but work did eventually stop, probably because they couldn’t go further without affecting the structural integrity of the building.

On 18 Dec, the Speaker took out a 4-page ad detailing his plans for the “reformation, restoration, and modernisation” of Parliament through getting rid of various carvings that are felt to have hindered the work of MPs. In particularly the totem pole has to go as it represents immorality, idols, and witchcraft, through “demonic masks,” carvings that “look like cannibals,” are of “eastern or African or foreign origin,” or are of “ugly figures of African (voodoo) origin.” It is to be replaced by a pillar of national identity and unity, with a light at the top, the word “unity” in 840+ PNG languages on the pillar itself, which stands atop bases representing the Word of God, Constitution, National Pledge, and the covenant that former PM Somare had supposedly established between PNG and the God of Israel in 2007. The national pledge and Constitution would have to be revised to remove references to ancestral wisdom and their influence today, substituting only references to a Christian God. Similarly, it was suggested that to make PNG a truly Christian country, that pesky section of the Constitution regarding freedom of religion would also have to be totally redone.

On the same day and in the same newspaper, a number of fundamentalist Christian leaders took out a full-page ad celebrating the work of the Speaker, noting that this will be PNG’s defining moment.

Since the initial story hit the front page on 6 Dec, it has been kept alive in the newspapers through articles, editorials, letters to the editor, and advertisements every day since then (and in various blogs, Facebook, etc.). In particular, the Post-Courier did an excellent job in keeping it front-page news for almost two weeks. There continue to be a lot of comments both for and against the Speaker’s actions. A couple of public forums have been organised about the subject. It appears that the destruction has stopped for the moment, but I don’t believe anyone has done an inspection recently. A number of legal actions against the Speaker are with the police or court, but it doesn’t appear that they have progressed.

A few MPs have publically denounced the Speaker, and some have wholeheartedly supported him. The vast majority have remained totally silent. Some have suggested that the matter will be debated in Parliament, when it resumes next month.

The Director of the National Museum and Art Gallery, Andrew Moutu, deserves tremendous credit for his unflinching public stance against this insanity. Of course, much more is at stake here than just carvings created for Parliament House. I’m sure this issue is far from over.

Update Feb 9 2014: There are also masses of people brainwashed by various fundamentalist churches into wholeheartedly supporting it. They seem to have access to impressive amounts of cash. Just this weekend there was another mass rally at a church here. While the public talk was more of the same (with the support of numerous MPs thrown in), there are all sorts of stories circulating that are even more extreme, and a lot of them are very anti-Sepik, particularly anti-Somare.