Student's passion enthuses dying slit-drum industry in PNG

3 Jun 2013

Monday, 3 June 2013

A university scholarship student’s passion for an ancient art of slit-drum making has reinvigorated the industry in Papua New Guinea.

Known as a garamut, the skill and art of making these traditional Papua New Guinean slit-drums has been the focus of PhD student, Alphonse Aime, currently studying at The University of Queensland.

Aime was the recipient of the Peter Goodenough and Wantoks PhD Scholarship in Anthropology established in memory of Mr Peter Goodenough, who had extensive business interests and friends in Papua New Guinea.

Goodenough sadly contracted motor neuron disease (MND) and left a major bequest to the Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) to further invest in research to treat this neurological disorder.

To celebrate the success of Aime’s project and the advances in MND research at QBI, a ‘beating of the drums’ ceremony will be held on 3 June, beginning at UQ’s Michie Building Lawns and attended by Dr Diana Young, Director, UQ Anthropology Museum and Professor Perry Bartlett, Director, QBI.

Beating MND – Garamut Ceremony

Monday 3 June 2013 – 12.45pm to 2.00pm

Michie Building Lawns, Chancellor’s Place to Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) Lawns, St Lucia Campus

One of the garamuts to be featured at the ceremony is carved with a traditional design from the village of Kayan, Madang Provence, recently uncovered on a garamut made by German anthropological student Alexis Poser (2004 – 2008) housed in the Berlin Museum.

Aime hopes his project will encourage Papua New Guinean’s to ‘get serious’ about preserving their rich cultural heritage by passing on the traditional knowledge and skills of making garamuts and other artefacts to young people.

At present, the average age of garamut carvers in Papua New Guinea is 50, with few young people interested in the art.

“I predict that by the year 2020, the knowledge, skill and art of making garamuts will be lost forever if no immediate action is taken now to hold onto it,” he said.

Aime is delighted by the impact his project has had on the industry to date.

“My field research triggered a renewed interested among the people to hold onto their fast disappearing traditional or indigenous cultural knowledge and skills, in this case, in the making of garamuts as well as other artefacts in Papua New Guinea,” he said.

“They have expressed gratitude and accepted me to be among them.”