Gogodala Canoe Festivals, Customary Ways and Cultural Tourism in Papua New Guinea

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Abstract

Gogodala Canoe Festivals, held in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea, are important and recurrent regional events that constitute as well as reiterate and reconfigure local relatedness as sites of potential engagement between Gogodala villagers and foreign tourists. Canoe races have been part of Gogodala practice since before the 1900s, when early colonial administrators noted the presence of magnificently painted and carved racing canoes. Since then, racing canoes have been part of local and exogenous discourses about culture and identity in colonial and postcolonial PNG. This paper explores the extent to which Gogodala Canoe Festivals, while primarily regional events concerned with relationships between people, groups and villages, are also designed to attract foreign tourists and as such constitute moments of potential relatedness outside of the region. In a wider sense, the paper explores these festivals as one way in which Gogodala engage global others through the establishment of a network of potential relationships based on ‘customary’ practices and objects.

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