The great Papua New Guinea art mentor, Ulli Beier, died in Sydney on Sunday aged 88.
The great Ulli Beier
The arts complex at the main campus of the University of PNG is named in his honour.
Many great Papua New Guineans came under his tutelage including Leo Hannett, Meg Taylor, Kathy Abel, Ekeroma Age, Leontine Ovia, Jerry Tamate, Rabbie Namaliu, Kumulau Tawali, Kakah Kais, Pia Leitao, Russell Soaba, John Waiko, Tony Siaguru, John Saunana, Peter Malala, John Kadiba, Elijah Titus, Janet Regione, Apisai Enos and Arthur Jawodimbari.
The 1960s and 1970s are remembered as a creative epoch in PNG’s history when some of the country’s best-ever poetry, prose, performances and publications were produced.
In 1967, Vincent Eri, then a student, brought Beier a story about Moveave in the Papua Gulf, and was encouraged to expand the story into a novel.
Thus Vincent Eri became the author of the first Papua novel The Crocodile.
Another literary achievement during those crucial years was the autobiography Kiki: Ten Thousand Years in a Lifetime by Albert Maori Kiki.
The first PNG literary magazine was launched in this period.
Elegantly produced and designed by Georgina Beier, Kovave was published 1969-1971.
The influence of the inimitable Beier and his equally-unflappable wife Georgina on the development of PNG literature during that era is still remembered by many people.
Beier produced 25 volumes of poetry, and the series was continued (after his return to Nigeria) by Prithvindra Chakravarthi, with a further 11 volumes, making 36 in all, and have become collectors’ items worthy of republication.
On the Beier’s return in 1974, Ulli became director of the institute of PNG Studies, and a new journal was established called Gigibori (1974-1978) with an emphasis on PNG culture.
The institute published 72 general publications on folklore, architecture, art, religion and music; 36 discussion papers on topical cultural, social and political issues; Wanpis, a novel by Russel Soaba; many works by John Kolia and the journal Gigibori.
The areas of theatre, radio production and performance promotion also developed under Beier.
He was to have travelled to PNG last August to make a presentation at a book conference at UPNG, however, was not strong enough to travel at age 88, and asked his good friend Peter Trist to travel to PNG from Australia and make the presentation on their behalf.