DO you by any chance remember Lobo and his song ‘My first time’? It was popular among young people in the 1970s.
I recall students at Lae Technical College playing it over and over in the cool evenings under the big rain trees there.
The song stuck with me. It reminds me of ‘first time’ experiences in my lifetime. Like when I attended my first tanim het courting session. Or when I saw my first elephant in 1972at the Mt Hagen Show.
Later I was to see more than an elephant. On a visit to a zoo in Cleveland, Ohio, I added to this lions, zebras, giraffes, bears, monkeys (including two gorillas), camels, tigers, hippopotamuses (hippopotami?), llamas, kangaroos and many more.
I also saw different species of birds, fish and plants - all for the first time.
To be honest, I was amazed I could see all this from around the world in the one place.
Representing Papua New Guinea were two tree kangaroos, a pair of parrots, some Queen Victoria Crowned pigeons and a lone bird of paradise. What an amazing feat man to bring them all to the one place for the benefit of city dwellers,
I wouldn’t have been at the zoo if it wasn’t for David Minnich. He and his family had livedat Gusap in Lae between 1987 and 1990.
David suggested that I shoud visit Metroparks Zoo where his wife Donna had told him of seeing ‘sampela kumul na sampela kapul.’ At the time I felt homesick and decided I should see something familiar.
I felt close to the tee kangaroos and the birds and stood very close to their cages and made noises to attract their attention and make them aware that a countryman was around.
The creatures did not respond. The tree kangaroos kept on eating lettuce leaves while the birds stared at me stupidly.
A few weeks later at the Cleveland Museum of Art I found a section on PNG. There were a few carvings from East Sepik, Gulf and West New Britain and tapa cloth from Oro.
Over at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History there was more from PNG. A stuffed bird of paradise, ceremonial kina shells used in Mt Hagen and a Jimi River stone axe.
“Does this small section represent all of PNG?” I asked my colleague Joe Daprano.
“Sure it doesn’t,” Daprano replied. “PNG has a diverse culture and collection doesn’t really represent the country.”
Daprano had worked with the Division of Health in Vanimo with the American Peace Corps, for two years and knew PNG’s diverse cultures well enough. He was now a student at medical school.
In fact, the biggest collection of PNG artefacts was probably at the Wilberforce Afro-American Museum and Cultural Centre near Dayton in Ohio. Curated by Dr Paul Brennan, the exhibition had artefacts from all over PNG; the bulk from the central highlands, mainly Enga.
Brennan had spent 10 of his 13 years in PNG in Enga where he set up the Enga Cultural Centre.
Quite a commitment and quite an achievement.