ON our last day in Papua New Guinea, Rose and I wandered down to the ad-hoc market outside the Holiday Inn.
The offerings were mostly tourist trinkets and holiday kitsch, but then Rose saw someone she recognised. He was wearing a leather cowboy hat and sporting a magnificent beard. It was Uncle John.
Now Rose is inclined to call any PNG man who looks a bit older than her 'uncle'. But in this case he was related. His welcome was warm and fluent Kuman flowed freely.
Uncle John was an artist and he was selling his paintings. We were in a hurry to get to the airport, so grabbed a couple for a hundred kina or so. Then we rolled them up to be stuffed in a cardboard tube and bid him a fond farewell.
I had forgotten about this until last week when we were cleaning house. "Look at these!" I exclaimed.
"They’re by Uncle John - remember, we saw one of his paintings in Darwin," replied Rose.
And so I rediscovered the two sketches we had bought some years previously. They are amazing, full of colour and light, with skillfully etched outlines and infill.
These last few days I have been looking at them carefully and realise they are examples of fine Papua New Guinean art. Uncle John Bom was a student of the great Matthias Kuage and it shows.
But John’s taken the style a step further. He has a unique way with line and contrast. And so we now proudly possess Tupela Pisin lo Paradis and Family Gecko.
These photos don't really do justice to the bold colours - simple bright red, black, white and a touch of blue. The geckos are watching their young hatch from eggs, and the birds of paradise are guarding their nest whilst eating berries.
The cross-hatch infill of wings, tails and bodies is derived from bilum weave patterns.
They are exquisite, and I have been the poorer for having neglected them for so long. Thank you, Uncle John Bom, a great Papua New Guinean artist in the Simbu tradition.