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Papua New Guinea Prints.

Papua New Guinea Prints By Melanie Eastburn National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2006. ISBN-10 0 642541 16 8. Pp 118, many illustrations. No price given

This book is basically a catalogue of (?all) the prints held in the NGA together with a brief history of print making from its beginning in the 1960s on. Many of the prints come from the collection of Ulli and Georgina Beier, whose impact on the development of this medium, as with many other media in PNG, is hard to overstate.

The book is ordered basically chronologically and artists are discussed in the order that they began to produce prints within this overall framework. The discussion of each artist is essentially descriptive of their art and their personal history. It appears that Eastburn has interacted with only one or two actual artists, nor has she the anthropological expertise which might have led her more deeply into exploring the sources of their creations. There are, for example, both style and content similarities in the works of Akis and John Man, both from Simbai. Is it simply that one learned from the other or is there something deeper here? The same question might be asked about the style of the extended Kauage family, whose renditions of 'modern' (Western) events and practices are almost unique and clearly owe little to traditional depictions.

The history of print making is a rather sad one, but one which is similar to other aspects of cultural and intellectual life in PNG. After a floreat in the 1970s and 1980s, when there was a productive liaison between PNG artists and their expat sponsors (and technical producers) in various institutional centres, there was a steady disintegration as the money dried up. More recently there has been some resurgence, notably of linocuts. These are sold either at a monthly market in Port Moresby or from daily galleries on the outer walls of major hotels. There is only one locally run gallery (, where the work of some artists featured here may be found.

The book is well illustrated, with 168 thumbnails in an appendix and some larger pictures, not all of them in the appendix, in the body of the volume. This is an elegant little introduction to a minor genre within the PNG art corpus.

Peter White

University of Sydney
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Author:White, Peter
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jul 1, 2007
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