National Geographic : 1969 Jul
Chuckling with delight, a tribesman admires the result of hours of primping. Like all Duma men, he is an excel lent archer. Pelts of cuscus and striped possum-both marsupials-hang from his elaborate wig. A valuable possession, it is worn only at festivals. The neck plate was cut from a gold-lip pearl oyster shell. howling and shaking wooden spears. Waiting to accommo date this horde was an astonishing structure: three huge grass huts arranged like the spokes of a wheel and totaling almost five miles in length. Here, amid tons of sweet pota toes-a staple of their diet-the celebrators would bed down on earthen floors beside open fires. Mount Hagen's only hotel and a motel had been booked for months. Schoolhouses had become temporary dormi tories for visitors, many from Australia. The local airfield, which usually handles about 100 landings and take-offs a day, braced itself for a weekend increase of 650. Cold Treat Wins a Convert At dawn of the opening day-Saturday-leaders shouted orders to their fellow tribesmen to move onto the show grounds. Off they went, dancing, chanting, and drumming. By midday 20,000 were massed in the arena-a heaving sea of brown bodies painted in reds, yellows, and blues. Soon stalls and open spaces around the arena hummed with activity, exhibiting everything from oil paintings to livestock. Several mystified natives watched tourists buying and eating strange objects-ice-cream cones. One warrior (right), unable to contain himself, stepped forward and ordered a cone. He put his tongue to it, as he had seen others do, but immediately recoiled from the coldness. Ignoring the guffaws of his companions, he gingerly tried again. This time he found both taste and temperature to his liking. On Sunday evening the show closed on a dramatic note. Flames from an unwatched fire began licking at one of the big huts. Pandemonium ensued, and all three housing units seemed doomed. But groups of excited natives quickly doused the blaze with buckets of water, saving all but a small section of one building. Next morning knots of tribesmen began their long trek home. As I watched them, I hoped that the lessons they had learned at the Hagen show would be put to good use. One thing was certain: They had all had a wonderful time. 156 Chilly novelty passes the taste test. An ice-cream cone -his first-brings a smile from this young Meldpa man of the Mount Hagen area. He earned the five-cent price by posing for a tourist's camera in his cap of cuscus fur and cockatoo feathers.