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CULTURE

HUMAN HAIR WIGS

Papua New Guinea is famous for body painting and elaborate headdress designs that require many hours spent applying face colour and markings.

Fierce warrior men from the Highlands weave wigs from human hair and decorate them with objects found in their environment (eg feathers and beetles).

These traditional decorations are an important part of ceremonial life in the country.

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HOT TOPIC BIKINI

Four days before one-time car engineer Louis Reard was to show the world his new bikini in Paris, the U.S. Military exploded a nuclear device near several small islands in the Pacific known as 'Bikini Atoll' in July 1946.

Although Reard would later claim he named the bikini after the islands and not the atomic blast, he was clearly taking advantage of a 'hot topic'.

The Atoll became a test site for what would turn out to be a total of 23 atomic and hydrogen bomb tests which were designed to gauge the effects the blasts would have on warships and America's nuclear capability.

For Digital Resources on Bikini Atoll click here
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TREASURE ISLAND

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island, one of the best-loved adventure stories in 1881.

It's a tale of pirates, a treasure map, a mutiny and a one-legged sea cook.

About the book, he said that, "If this don't fetch the kids, why, they have gone rotten since my day."

Stevenson lived in the Pacific Island of Samoa for the last six years of his life.

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TATTOOS

Nearly everyone in ancient Polynesian society was tattooed.

Tattooing was a sign of beauty and it was considered more important for a man to be tattooed than for a woman.

Some of the crew on Captain Cook's expedition to Tahiti had their arms tattooed like the islanders - the start of the tradition of sailors' tattoos.

Captain Cook returning from his trip to the Marquises Islands wrote in his diary: "They print signs on people's body and call this tattoo". Ma'i (called by the English Omai), the first Tahitian to travel to Europe (with Captain Cook) fascinated the British with his tattoos.

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ORIGINAL BUNGEE JUMP

Young men of Pentecost Island (part of Vanuatu) perform a traditional variation of bungee jumping by leaping from wooden towers up to 23 metres high.

This rite of passage is performed during April and May each year.

Carefully measured pliable vines are attached to their ankles to break the fall to earth.

Younger boys leap off lower sections of the tower. Held at the time of the yam harvest the ritual is regarded as giving strength and courage to the young men.

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DIVERSITY

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one of the most culturally diverse countries on Earth.

Together with its six hundred other islands the country has over 850 indigenous languages in a population of just over 5.9 million.

Most of the people are Melanesian, but some have Micronesian or Polynesian heritage. English, Tok Pisin (Melanesian Pidgin) and Hiri Motu (the colonial lingua franca of the Papuan region) are the official languages. PNG is also one of the most rural countries in the world, with over 80 per cent of the population living off agriculture. In recent years there has been a significant urban drift with people seeking employment and the excitement of city life.

This has given rise to crowded squatter settlements and an increase in crime.

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NOSE FLUTES

Traditional instruments include a conch-shell called the pu and a curious nose flute called the vivo, as well as numerous kinds of drums made from hollowed-out tree trunks and lizard skin.

Other traditional musical instruments include a musical bow from the PNG Southern Highlands called gawa, and a flute made from the curved stem of a pawpaw leaf known as roroni found in the Trobriand Islands.

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GAUGUIN IN TAHITI

French post-impressionist artist Paul Gauguin was born in 1843 but didn't start out as a full-time artist.

Instead he initially went to work as a stockbroker and did not start painting seriously until he was 30 years old.

In 1891 Gauguin decided to travel to the Pacific to find inspiration in what he hoped would be a tropical paradise.

He sold 30 canvases in Paris and with the proceeds set sail for Tahiti.

There he spent two years living very poorly but painting some of his most acclaimed post-impressionist masterpieces.

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A WORD FOR MUSIC

Many Pacific island cultures do not have a generic word for 'music', but they do have a rich heritage of songs, chants and instrumental performance.

Traditionally music was an integral part of daily life - from love songs, lullabies and laments, to incantations for gardening and hunting.

Instrument playing ranged from casual amusement such as jaw harps, to formal ensembles of drums and sacred flutes which were played during ceremonies.

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SING SING

In 1989 in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, a transnational musical connection took place.

Melbourne musician David Bridie and his band Not Drowning Waving teamed with local rock musician George Telek and the Moab String Band.

The PNG musicians' raw, grassroots music drew on music and stories from the village.

The collaboration resulted in the internationally acclaimed album Tabaran. The album went on to win an ARIA Award.

(The Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Awards recognise excellence and innovation in all genres of Australian music.)

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