Papua New Guinea's indigenous cultural festivals: cultural tragedy or triumph?

Document Type


Publication details

Whitford, M & Dunn, A 2014, 'Papua New Guinea's indigenous cultural festivals: cultural tragedy or triumph?', Event Management, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 265-283.

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Indigenous cultural festivals are increasingly being recognized for their contribution to the growth and vitality of communities around the globe. Such festivals invigorate the communication and celebration of indigenous culture, tradition, and rituals. Additionally, indigenous cultural festivals are often used as a draw card to attract tourists to a host destination and contribute to the development of the region. In Papua New Guinea (PNG), festivals have long been essential to community life and are fundamental in sharing and sustaining Indigenous culture. More recently, local communities and the PNG Government alike are recognizing that these festivals have the capacity to facilitate development of the country's embryonic tourism and event industry. The purpose of this qualitative research was to identify and examine cultural festivals in PNG, to develop a footprint of indigenous cultural festivals in PNG, and explore the extent to which tourism influences the cultural commodification of indigenous cultural festivals in PNG. Weaver and Lawton's cultural commodification model provided theoretical scaffolding for the development of the PNG Indigenous Festival Cultural Commodification Framework, which revealed that overall, cultural festivals in PNG are a relatively unspoiled resource. To date, tourism has had little influence on the festivals, which celebrate, among other things, PNG culture and traditions. However as tourism in PNG gains momentum, arguably a key issue will be the extent to which tourism development adopts the principles of sustainability and, concomitantly, avoids turning a triumph into a tragedy as a result of over commodification of PNG indigenous cultural festivals.