Mendi exploded with colour and culture on the third day of the Golden Jubilee events as traditional groups gathered from all corners of the Southern Highlands and Hela Provinces to celebrate a traditional singsing. A Singsing is a gathering of people where many are dressed in traditional attire to mark an important event in the life of the community. In the past, a singsing may have been an incitement of a community to face a tribal conflict; or to celebrate a victory after such a conflict. More often today, they are organized to observe other important events in the life of the community.
In celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the Diocese of Mendi an invitation went out to all of the diverse cultures living in the two provinces of Southern Highlands and Hela to participate. There are more than 12 language groups located within the two provinces which comprise the diocese - each with its own history, tradition and identity. Each with its distinctive manner of traditional attire and, with its own chant, dance and song. Singsing groups from all of the cultures of the diocese gathered to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the establishment of the diocese. We were also graced by the presence of a group from the Chimbu Province (who had come to celebrate the priesthood ordination of Peter Mondo, who is from Chimbu); and a colourful group from Mekio, sponsored by a local leader now working in Port Moresby.
Singsings usually take place on special 'singsing grounds' which are located within the territory of a given tribe or people. In recent years, different cultural 'shows' have sprung up in various parts of the country. It becomes a great tourist attraction and a way of different tribes to share the beauty of their culture... however the shows are a bit unnatural and contrived. Much more rare is the coming together of various tribes to celebrate together a common event - such as the Golden Jubilee of the diocese. This was not a show! This was an authentic expression of culture and faith - people from different languages and cultures coming together in fraternal communion and in celebration of a common faith in God.
The gathering reminded many of the verse from the Book of Revelation (7:9). "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the thrones and before the Lamb..." The singsing in Mendi, in this regard, was a powerful and true foretaste of heaven. Heaven touched earth!
There are many problems faced by this young nation of PNG, but the singsing in celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the Diocese of Mendi is a shining light of hope that it is possible for the peoples of PNG to celebrate the beauty and meaning of their distinctive cultures and yet come together in fraternal respect and communion for a common purpose.
(This is fifth in a series.)
Photo credits: Demoti Magini