The Future of the Sepik River and Its People: The Dilemmas of Cultural Heritage in a Changing Papua New Guinea

Join us for a conversation between Dr. Andrew Moutu, director of the Papau New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery, and Dr. John Baker, Professor in the Department of Anthropology, UBC.
  • Andrew Moutu, Director of the National Museum of Papua New Guinea; John Barker, Anthropology, UBC
    Coach House, Green College, UBC

    Wednesday, March 2, 5-6:30 pm, reception to follow

    Green College Special Lecture
  • The Sepik River in Papua New Guinea is one of the largest unpolluted river systems in the world, extraordinarily beautiful, but seldom visited by outsiders. The power of the river as a life source and a place of myths permeates the art of the Indigenous people there, whose carvings abound with naturalistic, transformational and creation imagery. Creating and selling art is a vital component of their communities' socio-economic life. Examples of this art will be shown in the new exhibition at MOA In the Footprint of the Crocodile Man: Contemporary Art of the Sepik River, Papua New Guinea, opening March 1, 2016.

    The exhibition has two important goals: to raise awareness of how cultural life and the river that supports it are the source of artist expressions found in sculptural work throughout the Sepik region, and to convey how this cultural life is in danger from the environmental impact of mining.

    Located near the headwaters of the Sepik on the border between East Sepik and West Sepik provinces, the Frieda River mine aims to tap one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits. The project is expected to begin construction in 2016, which makes this exhibition very timely. The environmental hazards posed by mining are global in nature – witness the disastrous collapse of the Mount Polley tailings pond in B.C.'s Interior and more recently the Samarco mine disaster in Brazil.

    The people who live along the banks of the river are worried. They feel helpless and invisible. The exhibition includes video footage of contemporary cultural life, artists speaking about their fears for future, and input from the mining company that intends to set the benchmark for socially and environmentally responsible mining in PNG.

  • Unless otherwise noted, all of our lectures are free to attend and do not require registration.


March 2nd, 2016 from  5:00 PM to  6:30 PM
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Speaker Series Green College Special Lecture
Short Title The Future of the Sepik River and Its People
Speaker (new) Andrew Moutu Director of the National Museum of Papua New Guinea, John Barker, Anthropology, UBC
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Speaker First Name Andrew Moutu
Speaker Last Name Director of the National Museum of Papua New Guinea
Speaker Affiliation John Barker, Anthropology, UBC
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