11 & 14 June 2010

We met a fascinating Papua New Guinean artist by the name of Fabian Paino. He carves Malagan wooden sculptures, the ceremonial art of New Ireland’s living culture.

Fabian carves the wooden part of a Tatanua Mask

Fabian carves the wooden part of a Tatanua Mask

His work is now found amongst people’s collection from all over the world although Fabian still does not consider himself a master carver. He will be famous one day when he progresses to become one. But for now, he is content to remain an artist with ambition to excel in his craft. He hails from the Langenia Village, Konos from the north coast of New Ireland mainland. He is of the Notsi linguistic region from the same Konos district as living master carver Ben Sisia of the Libba Village.

The wood Fabian uses for carving from the Saba tree a soft wood that is abundant in Kavieng

The wood Fabian uses for carving from the Saba tree is a soft wood that is abundant in Kavieng

There are four

There are four color natural pigments he uses for paint.  White is from a dead coral that makes lime powder once cooked – the very same ingredient they use to chew bettle nut. Fabian mixes this with water to paint white.

Red is from a red rock. This also turns to powder once cooked and this is mixed with water or sometimes coconut oil

Red is from a red rock. This also turns into powder once cooked and to make red pigment is mixed with water or sometimes coconut oil

Black is from a fruit of a Kalapulim tree. The small seem is cooked and mixed with coconut oil to make black pigment ink

Black is from a fruit of a Kalapulim tree. The small seed is cooked and mixed with coconut oil to make black pigment ink

Yellow is from yellow ginger root or turmeric. The pure juice of the ginger makes yellow pigment

Yellow is from yellow ginger root or turmeric. The pure juice of the ginger makes yellow pigment

The furry headdress is from the bark of a tulip tree or in their local language the Mulai tree. This bark is pounded with a hard piece of wood and once soft is sewn together to make the hair part of the mask.

Fabian has been carving for about 11 years now and our friend Dietmar Amon of Lissenung Island Resort bought two of his first carved tatanua Masks welcoming everyone to enter the restaurant. Traditionally, tatanua masks are made new and used in their traditional dance.

Tatanua Mask has the image of dead people

Tatanua Mask has the image of dead people. The word tatanua refers to the life principle aspect of the soul of the deceased

When a person dies, malagan traditions are used during the funeral ceremonies and at a later stage, to honor the memory of the deceased

When a person dies, malagan traditions are used during the funeral ceremonies and at a later stage, to honor the memory of the deceased

They dance in the shallow waters to try to drive away or remove the evil spirits or taboos of the dead away from the islands or the ritual sites

They dance in the shallow waters to try to drive away or remove the evil spirits or taboos of the dead away from the islands or the ritual sites

Traditionally, Malagan art works are made, used or displayed in ritual context and then destroyed.

Fabian is also the coordinator of the cultural group of his village Langenia.  He used to be an elementary school teacher teaching kids their Notsi language but he finds carving is his passion and gave up teaching for his art. But as coordinator of their cultural group, he continues to teach and preserve their culture by teaching dance, carving and their traditional Malagan art. Their cultural group can perform 10 – 30 dances – a very unique cultural activity of their living tradition. Langenia Village is by the coast, an hour and a half by car from Kavieng.

Yogi gets a pounding from three Papuan masked men!

Yogi gets a pounding from three masked New Guinea Island men!

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