Conference : Preservation of the Primary Forests in Papua New Guinea and Creative Arts

Date : Thursday 23 November 2023
Time : 2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Venue : Richelieu Amphitheatre, SUAD Campus

The presentation/conference highlights the importance of forest conservation, traditional knowledge, and visual arts in Papua New Guinea. Protecting the primary rainforests is crucial for the preservation of our planet. After the Amazonian and the Congo Basin, the primary rainforest of New Guinea is one of the three largest rainforests on Earth. In New Guinea, a significant portion of the forest is managed through customary practices. Today, Papua New Guinean villagers are caught between two opposing imperatives. On one hand, the forest serves as a reservoir that, once preserved, and protected, is beneficial to the planet and humanity (but offers restricted access to global welfare). On the other hand, the forest can be transformed into a commodity for loggers or for palm oil, which guarantees the involvement of local communities in the cash economy.The religious significance of forests in Papua New Guinea has been largely overlooked. Local communities view forests as having a spiritual dimension, and by preserving them they ensure the goodwill of the invisible inhabitants of the forest. However, loggers and extractive industry managers argue that these spiritual inhabitants’ conflict with the Christian beliefs which have become dominant in Papua New Guinea. They also claim that cutting down forests could eliminate unpredictable agents (known as “non-humans”) that can cause diseases and death. These two viewpoints may seem paradoxical, but they are not mutually exclusive. In many parts of Papua New Guinea, invisible inhabitants of the forest have an ambiguous relationship with humans: they are both helpful and dangerous. Recent research undertaken by the Divine Word University in Madang explores new methodologies to investigate the importance of the forest and the way Papua New Guineans express their current concerns about it through the use of innovative art forms.
Allan Maule and Yatha Baran, from Papua New Guinea along with Prof Nicolas Garnier,have taken the lead in the research project and accompanying artworks. Both Allan and Yatha will join the conference via video conference. The art piece ‘Bus graun blo mipela’ created by Allan Maule and Yatha Baran will be displayed during the conference.


About the Speaker

Professor Nicolas Garnier is the Director of the Centre for Social Research at Divine Word University in Madang, Papua New Guinea. He is an anthropologist who has been living and working in Papua New Guinea for about 20 years. Prior to his current position, he was the Chief Curator for the musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac (2016-2023).


Kindly note that this event will be photographed and videographed

Please fill-in the registration form below to confirm your participation on campus

Bookings are closed for this event.