A project developed by the Anthropology Museum with Dr Kirsty Gillespie and the Lihir Cultural Heritage Association

1 March 2013 - 4 August 2013

This is the first museum exhibition of Lihir culture anywhere in the world.  It features contemporary performance art especially made by Lihirians to demonstrate their culture to a foreign audience, alongside items from the distant past.

David Haigh | 2010 Digital photograph | Men from Lakaziz Catholic community performing a kulau dance at the Kuelam church opening | Mahur, Lihir Island Group

For the last fifteen years, the Lihir Island Group, in New Ireland Province, has been host to a large-scale gold mine which has radically transformed its social life and material circumstance. Ancestral performance culture continues to be at its centre. This exhibition, in collaboration with the Lihir Cultural Heritage Association, includes multimedia items including film and sound recordings that set the audio and visual scene.

The contemporary Lihir items are juxtaposed with items on loan from The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, USA.  These were mostly collected in 1908 and feature performance objects such as drums, rattles, dress and body ornaments. These are accompanied by sound recordings, also recorded in 1908, that were collected during a German expedition to the islands.

The Lihir display is complemented with select objects from neighbouring cultural groups, thus highlighting the interconnections in performance landscape across the region. The resulting exhibition allows the visitor to become immersed in the soundscape of this remote part of the world.

Hear the songs of Lihir, recorded on wax cylinder in 1908, and read of life and death in their translated texts. Observe the contrast with Lihirian pop, and the continuities apparent in field recordings of contemporary times. Marvel at the colour and drama of the body decorations. Hear the sound of the sea in the shape of Lihir melody. Lose yourself in the landscape of Lihir.

Musical Landscapes of Lihir

View full photo gallery on Flickr:  Musical Landscapes of Lihir


With thanks to the Field Museum of Natural History and particularly Chris Philipp, Queensland Museum, LMALA, LSDP, Nick Bainton, David Haigh at Newcrest Mining Ltd, Luke Kabariu, Barth Saien, Lori Kabariu, Constantine Kabariu, Peter Toelinkanut, Alphonse Ama, Carl Warner and Craig Oddy. Photos by David Haigh, copyright Newcrest Mining Ltd.

Exhibition design and additional curation:  Diana Young
Installation and loan co-ordination: Jane Willcock
Curatorial assistance, project co-ordination: Kiri Chan
Curatorial assistance, media: Charla Strelan
Conservation: Kate Stanway
Installation team Kirsty Gillespie, Jane Willcock, Charla Strelan, Kiri Chan, Camella Hardjo and Kate Stanway.



Banner image: Barth Saien, Lakuo / headpiece, 2012
Teaser image: Performers on the Lihir Island of Masahet, photo by David Haigh