Collections: Paul Wolffram - The EVIA Digital Archive Project

Lak Ceremonies and Rites in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea (2001-2005)

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Men perform a pokpok dance in Torhbung community, Lak region, 2004. Image © Paul Wolffram.

The audio and video recordings in this collection were made during the researcher's 25 month period of fieldwork among the Lak people of Southern New Ireland and they represent the only collection of video recordings in existence for the region (In 1976 a few, 28 recordings, were made by a mobile field unit who only stayed in the region for two weeks). The video collection is extensive and contains examples of the majority of music and dance genres that are performed in Southern New Ireland today. The Lak are a remote community that have managed to maintain many of the traditional song and dance forms that are now defunct in other parts of the Bismarck Archepelago. Of particular interest to ethnographers and ethnomusicologists is the continuation of the traditional form of the tubuan performance. This secret men's cult is in existence throughout the island region but has its origins and cultural genesis among the Lak where it is still practiced in its most traditional form (according to Lak informants). Within this collection there are several hours of tubuan performances.

Also of major significance, the recordings include the entire mortuary sequence, a process that often takes years to complete. Each stage of the mortuary rites include significant amounts of community dance performances, apparences by men's cults and the ritual processes has been captured on video for the first time. Of equal importance is the documentation the researcher gathered during his fieldwork period and his linguistic understanding which enables him to place the video recordings in context.

This collection is significant because it is the only repository of Lak music and dance in existence and because all of the performances and rituals recorded were performed as part of their traditional context in the normal sequence of Lak life. This collection was published June 1, 2012.

This collection is peer reviewed and available online in the EVIA Project Archive.

Image © Victoria Manning

Paul Wolffram has just completed his PhD thesis in ethnomusicology at the New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University of Wellington. His academic work has focused on the song and dance practices of Melanesian communities. He has conducted extensive fieldwork in Papua New Guinea since 2001 and spent time in the Fijian Islands. Paul has also directed and produced several feature length documentaries on Pacific Island communities. Paul's academic interests include the use of film in ethnography, he recently presented a paper on ethnographic video in ethnomusicology and the potential of video as an ethnographic medium.

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