What makes a city come alive?
Or rather, I should ask why
– Why would we want a city to come alive?
Maybe the second question is easier to answer.
For a start, a lively city is a healthy city. There is evidence to suggest that when a city’s residents have more options on things to do, they are out more, whether as part of fitness groups or the art and culture scene. Both are good for the body, mind and soul.
Plus, a city that is ablaze with lively energy is open to new ideas that go a long way in making the city more liveable for its many different residents.
And boy do we have many different residents.
Port Moresby is hurtling into an era of unprecedented multiculturalism, and I do not just mean the different tribes of PNG.
There are now many people of different ethnicities living in Port Moresby, creating their own little enclaves where they can simply be.
We see them in most shopping centres in Port Moresby at the end of the day: people from almost every continent. Africans; Asians; Europeans; Middle Eastern, North-Central-and-South Americans, and of course our Pacific brothers and sisters, have all descended on Port Moresby.
– I’ve even heard the odd West Indian accent pop up behind aisles at Vision City!
Making our city meld into a global cultural concoction will be an interesting experiment for Port Moresby over the coming years.
And with all these people confined in our small city, there’s a lot of potential for a tidal wave of creative energy. We might even start seeing new flavours appearing in our cafes and food courts, or new technology appearing before our eyes.
Still, obvious barriers keep a hold of this rising tide.
Fear of crime – whether real or perpetuated in our imaginations – is the cross the residents of Port Moresby have to bear. On top of that are the costs associated with gaining access to that creative energy – issues of accessibility.
But I’ve seen sparks of this creative energy and it is refreshing.
Bubbling away beneath the gritty surface of Port Moresby are some great creative projects offering alternatives to the daily grind and getting drunk on weekends.
Group fitness classes, art exhibitions, choral performances, provocative-panel discussions – Insert Breath Here – live theatre, poetry readings, gallery openings, food and wine pairing are but a few events happening that we never really hear about.
Like bubbles, they simmer into existence, rising on the back of an energetic few -bursting into life -giving life to other ideas around them. This is the role of the creative citizen in the city, to dream up an event and bring it to life.
Sadly, most of these events are being driven by non-Papua New Guineans. Mostly Australian’s strangely enough – I guess it will take time for the other ethnicities to get involved.
There isn’t anything wrong with being a cultural concocting pot with different flavours of course, but it is a concern for sustaining the lively creative energy beneath the city’s shady demeanour – particularly for the arts and culture.
When I raised the concern with a friend of mine, about why there was a lack of participation from more Papua New Guineans, she commented that these events were “samting blo ol waitman” but I wouldn’t be too quick to agree with that sentiment.
If all these other people were visitors to our land, chances are they would someday leave as they often did. When it happens, there will be a cultural vacuum that needs filling.
We saw this with the deterioration of the Moresby Arts Theatre after the 80s and even the Museum. Politically, we didn’t prioritise them because they were part of another history and cultural system.
But for now, I settled with thinking that these activities and events were just a bit too inaccessible for most Papua New Guineans at present. Or maybe we hadn’t heard of these hole-in-the-wall events just yet – a bit more publicity would help with that.
I am hoping it’s the second point.
– With love, Hans