A MUCH WELCOMED CHANGES AT IPNGS
The Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies (IPNGS) was established as a national cultural institution under the National Cultural Council when the Cultural Development Bill was passed in the House of Assembly on 14 October 1974. As it had no office space, it initially grew in some rooms of the house of its founding director, Ulli Beier, located at what is now Seoul House Restaurant in Boroko.
But in March 1975, IPNGS obtained the lease to its present location on Angau Drive, next to what is now Nambawan Trophy Haus in Boroko. Since 1970, the lease had been held by Frank Ronald Barlow, the founder of Barlow Industries.
By the end of 1976, the new IPNGS premises were ready for use. Perhaps the most notable feature of IPNGS was the black metal sculpture on the outside wall and gates, telling an Orokolo myth of how Aru Aru went to fight the moon, but returned with the yam. This story was originally told to Ulli Beier by Sir Albert Maori Kiki. The sculpture was designed by artist Georgina Beier and executed by first-year apprentice electricians and diesel mechanics of what was then the Electricity Commission’s training school. This metal sculpture continues to be a very distinctive feature of the IPNGS landscape.
In 1977, IPNGS’s “temporary” building was officially opened, coinciding with the premiere of the film Gogodala: A Cultural Revival, by IPNGS filmmaker Chris Owen. But there were already plans for a new building, designed by architect Zbyszek Plocki. Sadly, adequate funding was never obtained, and additions and modifications to the original building have been slow and minimal since then.
Over the years, outfitted shipping containers were added to safely store archival materials, and office space was slightly expanded to accommodate increased staff. IPNGS became a national cultural institution under the National Cultural Commission in 1994, but the grand structure envisaged to proudly reflect an institution focussed on documenting and safeguarding the cultural heritage of this country never materialised.
But, as IPNGS approaches its 50th anniversary, there are some dramatic changes underway, particularly as the National Cultural Commission’s Executive Director, Mr. Steven Enomb Kilanda, has prioritised infrastructural developments.
Overseen by IPNGS’s acting director, Mr. Christopher Puio, some new offices have been built and others are planned. Archival and library facilities are to be expanded, updated, and modernised.
Perhaps most striking is the removal of old housing and trees to allow the construction of a conference centre to showcase presentations, discussions, and gatherings on cultural activities by staff and local and international visitors.
The ongoing work of IPNGS to document, record, preserve, safeguard, and promote the intangible cultural heritage of this country was highlighted in recent interviews with staff by journalist Mr. John Eggins. He also witnessed first-hand some of the changes happening to the IPNGS landscape, all under the watchful gaze of Aru Aru. There are exciting developments ahead for IPNGS and for Papua New Guinea.