Art Dealer in the Last Unknown Ron Perry and New Guinea Art by Carolyn Leigh and Ron Perry

March 15, 2011 at 4:06 am (Papua New Guinea) (, , )

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Art Dealer in the Last Unknown

Art Dealer in the Last Unknown is a narrative and visual experience down memory lane for those who know Ron Perry, New Guinea and many of the people mentioned in the book.  To see the mighty Sepik River again and to be introduced into the rich cultural heritage of the region and how Ron was able to access it and collect amazing examples of Sepik art is a telling tale of enterprise and adventure. Names of legendary characters pop up throughout the account: Peter and Meg England, Bob Mackie, Chu Leong, Freddie Eichhorn, Neils and Mary Madsen, Jim McKinnon, Fr John O’Toole, Margaret Mead, Peter Johnson, John Pasquarelli, Ludwig Somare, Michael Somare, Don Bosgard (mistakenly spelt ‘Bosquard’), Ron and Ella Lucas, Johnny Young, Daniel Guren and many others. All these names conjure up in my mind numerous untold stories. To be introduced to Ron’s former wife, Barbara, again reminds me of what she once said to me at their house in Abbottsford, Sydney, the morning after Ron and I had been on a lively drinking day and evening session: “David, if Ron ever develops cirrhosis of the liver, it’s you I’m going to sue.”  I didn’t know the story about Bob Mackie unknowingly peeing on ‘the Pork Pie King of England’, who incidentally was , if I recall correctly, Norm Ferris, but I always understood it was Doug Newton, but perhaps it was both of them. The profusion of place names like Angoram, Amboin, Dreikikir, Maprik, Wewak.Yangoru and Tobacco Road cannot fail to captivate the local and expat reader. 

And for those who are entering the unknown for the first time, a thrilling and informative experience awaits them. 

The photos in the book are excellent and numerous. 

This is a piece of work that is informed by the variety of Ron Perry’s experiences and enriched with the artistry and presentation of Carolyn Leigh. 

It is highly recommended to all old New Guinea hands and to those of a curious, artistic and adventurous turn of mind.

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Sorcery in PNG

March 7, 2011 at 4:00 am (Papua New Guinea, Wewak) (, , , , , , , , )

"Post-Courier" 4 March 2011

Peter Johnson sent me this cutting from the Post-Courier, and the question of sorcery and supposed witchcraft in PNG reminded me of something Fr John O’Toole told me about many years ago in Dreikikir. One of his parishioners from his mission station at Dagua just outside of Wewak, where he was stationed in the early 1950s, complained of intense pain in the general area of his lower stomach and liver, saying only that “sanguma man kisim mi”. Most white men at the time would have taken this with a grain of salt and put it in the same category as the Australian Aborigines talking about pointing the bone. John was sufficiently concerned to take his parishioner to Wewak to consult Dr John McInernery, the then District Medical Officer. Dr John gave the patient a physical examination and could find nothing obviously wrong, and he was inclined to think he was dealing with a malingerer, but he just wondered, and he was not a man who liked to be left with any lingering doubts about any final diagnosis he might make, so he ordered an x-ray. And just as well he did as the x-ray revealed a foreign object very close to vital organs that would have eventually caused death if not removed.

The interesting thing was that there were no surface signs of how this object had got into the man. The skin was unbroken and intact. The foreign object was a piece of wire which Dr John removed.

In this incident sorcery was used but not in a supernatural sense. The sorcerers had ordered that sanguma be employed to end this man’s life.

Fr F. Mihalic explains this: “sanguma, (sang-guma) (Mel) secret murder committed by orders from sorcerers. The victim is waylaid, short poisoned thorns are inserted into the base of his tongue, causing swelling and loss of speech. Then other thorns (usually from the wild sago plant) are pushed into vital organs, where they cause infection and eventual death.”

The Jacaranda Dictionary and Grammar of Melanesian Pidgin

The actual method employed may not be exactly as described by Fr Mihalic, in the case under discussion, but anyone who has lived in the Sepik would have some awareness of the existence of sanguma.

There are many factors associated with magic, black and otherwise, which are both physical and psychological, and even criminal, to say nothing about any spiritual dimension, if it exists or not. The question of what people actually believe is also important.

I’ll leave the last word with the Bard, in what I hope is a respectful tone, and of course there is some sanction of magic, if indeed it be, of the good variety:

“O, she’s warm!
If this be magic, let it be an art
Lawful as eating.”
William Shakespeare (The Winter’s Tale)

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