This past week, the spirit of Papua New Guinea descended on Southern California as adventure seekers were invited to discover the world’s last great frontier and the land of a million journeys at a series of events held throughout the region.
Located in the South Pacific, just north of Australia, this special country is home to more than 800 tribes and miles of untouched natural beauty ranging from majestic waterfalls and verdant valleys to sun-kissed islands and coral reefs. As I know from my own personal travel experience, what makes a visit to Papua New Guinea different from visiting any other place in the world is the people.
During my recent trip to the destination I spent my time sitting with local women and learning traditional weaving techniques, holding hands with children in villages as they led me to their schools and jumping into swimming holes with arms full of children. The people of Papua New Guinea are incredibly warm and welcoming, and we wanted our event series here in California to reflect that spirit and experience. What better way to do this than to bring cultural ambassadors from Papua New Guinea to the United States? We were joined by Dennis Gaui, a master carver from the Sepik region; Mundiya Kepanga, a tribal chief from the Tari Region; and Alice Kuaningi, marketing director at Tourism Papua New Guinea, as well as a group of local residents from Papua New Guinea based here in Los Angeles.
Our mighty group kicked things off with a Spirit of Papua New Guinea Festival with Travel Massive LA. More than 80 travel journalists and influencers gathered as the Marina del Rey Hotel hosted a festival that captured the spirit of Papua New Guinea’s deep cultural traditions. With sunset views over the marina, guests enjoyed appetizers and cocktails while cultural ambassadors from across Papua New Guinea shared time-honored traditions such as mask carving, coconut scrapping and tribal face painting through interactive demonstrations.
“It was by far one of the best ones I've been to, and I learned SO much about the culture of Papua New Guinea,” said Sally Elbassir, a blogger with Passport and Plates.
Next up in our event series, the Pacific Island Ethnic Art Museum in Long Beach also pulsed with life as cultural ambassadors from Papua New Guinea performed a living art showcase. Appetizers and artisans demonstrated traditions from the highland and coastal regions.
On our final day of events, the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana invited the public to discover Papua New Guinea as experts discussed its fascinating art and culture with performances and a panel discussion surrounded by the museum’s collection of drums and boats from the South Pacific. The evening ended with an intimate dinner highlighting South Pacific cuisine as interpreted by Executive Chef Brian Black. The events were picked up for live shot segments on Fox News.
It was an incredible opportunity to be part of these special events that gave a group of special people from Papua New Guinea the platform to share their culture, traditions and stories with potential travelers.