In the 1970s the Motu-Koita, traditional inhabitants of what is now the National Capital District of Papua New Guinea, inaugurated a yearly cultural festival thematically based on traditional coastal trading voyages known as hiri. Contestation over the location and commercialization of the festival in the capital city developed in the new century as one distant village claimed to 'own' the hiri. The Motu-Koita view of their past and their identity has been affected by their encounter with Christianity, colonialism and its aftermath, and the rhetoric of the villagers' claims drew on criteria of authenticity, cultural purity, and exclusiveness which are arguably contemporary rather than 'traditional'. This article reviews Motu-Koita history, the story of the origin of the hiri, and the local politics of the cultural festival. It attempts to understand the way the past, which was formerly mythopoeically invoked, is being historicized and thereby fixed in new local discourses of cultural and heritage rights and ownership, as Melanesians come to terms with the effects of global processes on their traditions and other resources.
|Number of pages||17|
|Publication status||Published - Nov 2011|