America likes to call itself a “melting pot”, a place where folks from all over the world immigrate to in search for “a better life”, bringing their previous cultures and values with them and living amongst others with different values. In this theory the diversity of origins has led to a culturally diverse nation. However, there is still plenty of homogeneity in American culture (The Big Bang Theory or 30 Rock,it’s still a TV show that Americans are spending 5 hours a day watching) and very little American popular culture represents the original inhabitants of this land. Perhaps that is because much has happened to the indigenous people of this nation in the name of “progress”, to make room for all those new immigrants and the factories in which they once worked.
And while American progress has its fair share of ghost towns, waste lands, and near-bankrupt cities, there are nations like Papua New Guinea that have been watching their world change over the last few decades due to technology and commerce. The Papua New Guinean artist John Siune has been painting full-time since 1985, ten years after his country established sovereignty after years of outside rule. Mr Siune depicts Papua New Guineans themselves in a simple manner, always finding a vehicle or headdress to sink some glorious detail into. In his paintings the Papua New Guineans hunt for fish and nurse their young while staring directly into the viewer/tourist’s eyes, a challenge to the notion that progress must mean giving up on one’s culture. Alienated from the meaning of their outfits by the urbanizing world around them, they hold on to their roots as best they can. Technology like planes, trucks, and helicopter’s show up in Mr Siune’s work to offer commerce, assistance, or just to throw a wrench into the native way of life. By creating art in a traditional and yet wholly original way, and by turning his focus on to his people changing as the world around them changes, John Siune has earned a prominent place among Papua New Guinean artists. Mr Siune is based in Papua New Guinea’s capital city of Port Moresby.