The government and the people of Papua New Guinea have been urged to seriously consider embracing the cultural heritage of the country.
Minister for Tourism Arts and Culture Isi Henry Leonard made these remarks after observing the 7th Melanesian Arts and Culture Festival for a week in Port Vila. He said the government must review its budget allocation to the arts and cultural sector and provide more support.
The people of Papua New Guinea must also change their negative attitudes and embrace culture as a commercial activity and benefit from it.
Minister Leonard said his observation of the 7th Melanesian Arts and Culture Festival has shown there is cohesion amongst the Melanesian countries. He said he has also realized that the impact of PNG’s participation has been immense “in terms of the content of the event, the texture of colors on display, and also the volume, the richness and the dept of culture that has been expressed”.
“Now that all comes down to the government’s approach and priority in rolling out MACFEST. Papua New Guinea’s involvement is important,” he said.
He said the festival has shown the most significant resource of the country, “and that is culture, both tangible and intangible”.
“Culture in its entirety or real sense involves one that is physical and spiritual. These are two most important aspects of culture that gives the true meaning of culture. In Papua New Guinea, we have that true meaning of culture,” Minister Leonard said.
He said culture is a resource that must be captured by the government and the people of Papua New Guinea.
“Culture is highly vulnerable. Without practicing it, without our engagement in our culture, it will slowly and softly erode, so it is important to practice and promote it” he said.
He said PNG has yet to realize the full potential of its cultural heritage and called on the government to support it more and give more prominence to the National Cultural Commission.
“I realize that the National Cultural Commission is parked under the social sector. I think we should now change our mindsets and perception about the National Cultural Commission. We should now view it from a resource point of view,” he said, adding it should now be moved from the social sector to the economic sector.
“Because I view it as a resource. This is the greatest resource that we can ever have. And that is our culture. Culture intertwines with the human resource and the environment.
He emphasized the need for the government to allocate more funding to the National Cultural Commission to carry out its mandate, agendas, programs, and activities.
National Cultural Commission is the lead cultural agency of the government mandated to preserve, promote, safeguard, and develop cultural services and products in the country.
He said culture-based tourism was the way forward for tourism in Papua New Guinea and called on the government to learn from the 7th MACFEST experience in Vanuatu, which saw an influx of tourists. “We need to learn from this,” Minister Leonard said.
Both NCC board members Prof. Leo Marai and Dr Michael also expressed similar sentiments in their remarks.
NCC executive director, Steven Enomb Kilanda, thanked the National Government and the Minister for supporting Commission to send the arts and cultural contingent to Vanuatu, and asked for continuance of similar support towards future local and international arts and cultural fixtures.
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