Papua New Guinea is known as a colourful land, rich in culture and tradition. Papua New Guinea tribes are also some of the most welcoming in the world, and one of the best ways to meet and learn more is by attending some of the wonderful festivals that are held every year. In Papua New Guinea culture, tribal gathering groups known as ‘sing-sings’ are very important, and form the basis of many national festivals.
If you’re planning to visit Papua New Guinea, watching sing-sing performances and participating in festivals provides you a unique glimpse into another world. Here are just some of the incredible cultural events that allow you to meet the tribes of Papua New Guinea.
The Mount Hagen Cultural Show takes place in the Western Highlands Province each year. It was first held in 1961 in an effort to bring tribes together as somewhat of a peace initiative. Usually held at the Kagamuga Showground in Mount Hagen, the event attracts over 100 tribal groups from the Western Highlands and beyond. The festival’s primary focus is a traditional dance competition, but there’s a lot more going on than mere dancing.
The Mount Hagen Cultural Show also encompasses singing, music, arts and crafts and, of course, showcases Papua New Guinea’s love of elaborate tribal costumes. While the event is financially rewarding for the winners, it’s also an important cultural event. Cultural shows and sing-sings of this nature help to preserve traditions and keep younger people involved in the ways of the past. In many ways, festivals like the Mount Hagen Cultural Show help to keep ancient customs and languages alive, and it’s all on display for visitors to view and even participate in.
As one of Papua New Guinea’s largest tribal gatherings, the Goroka Festival goes hand in hand with the country’s Independence Day celebrations. It is held every September in the Eastern Highlands Province, typically in Goroka Town. While being an important cultural event, it was actually first held in 1957, primarily organised by Australian patrol officers.
The Goroka Festival brings together more than 100 tribes, each of them showcasing their different elaborate costumes and dance performances. It’s also the largest sing-sing in Papua New Guinea, involving a range of performances, competitions, arts and crafts, local cuisine and plenty of history.
Just like all of Papua New Guinea’s festivals, the Rabaul Mask Festival is a colourful display of cultural identity. Masks, traditional dress, dance performances and more are a big part of this festival, although it is somewhat different from traditional sing-sing. While still plenty of fun, there is a strong focus on history during this festival based in Kokopo.
Tribes gather on the foreshore to display their traditional masks, which is always a colourful affair. Combined with music and dance, the Rabaul Mask Festival culminates in the traditional Bainings Fire Dance. Initiated men from the Bainings clans perform stunning dances while immersed in fire. They remain unharmed, but it is truly a unique experience that doesn’t occur anywhere else in the world.
In Papua New Guinea culture, the crocodile is considered a sacred entity. Each year in the Sepik River region, tribes gather to celebrate the relationship between man and crocodile. Sing-sing groups bring with them a range of colourful outfits, crafts, music and storytelling. Dancers perform the traditional crocodile dance, which is a symbolic performance that shows how highly the crocodile is held in Papua New Guinea traditions. The Ambunti Crocodile Festival also gives visitors the chance to explore the rich culture of the region and understand more about the significance of crocodile preservation.
Unlike some of the larger sing-sings and festivals that have been part important for Papua New Guinea tribes for decades, the Siwai Cultural Show is relatively new. First staged in 2021, it is held annually in the Siwai District of South Bougainville. Through chanting voices, dance performances, traditional dress and, of course, plenty of colour, the Siwai Cultural Show is a powerful spectacle. Patriotism is on full display, and being such a new festival, it is full of life and energy. For those wishing to see a display that blends cultural and traditional ties with a more unified future, the Siwai Festival is a must-see.
Each year, tribes from all over Papua New Guinea come for the Kenu and Kundu festival. Held in Alotau in the Milne Bay Province, this festival celebrates the maritime legacy of the region. Like many other festivals, tribes battle it out through dance performances, sing-sings and a rich display of traditional outfits, all of which are colourful and eye-catching.
However, where the Kenu and Kundu festival differs from others is in its showcasing and racing of war canoes. Seafarers for generations, Papua New Guinea tribes love sharing their prowess in an exhilarating race held to the sound of pounding Kundu drums.
If you’re interested in seeing Papua New Guinea culture and tradition in all its glory, contact Crooked Compass today. We’ve got a range of perspective-shifting adventures encompassing some of the most vibrant festivals PNG has to offer.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.