Friday, July 25, 2008

Dr Greg Murphy honoured for his services to PNG arts and education

The award of Officer of the Order of Logohu was presented to Raun Raun Theatre founder Dr Greg Murphy by Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane on Thursday on March 1, 2007.
Dr Murphy, a naturalised citizen who first came to Papua New Guinea in 1968, is known to many people – particularly those of Goroka – as being the founder of the famous Raun Raun Theatre and his role in the construction of the landmark Raun Raun Theatre building.
His is also known for his production of many plays, including the internationally-acclaimed Sail The Midnight Sun trilogy, which was written by famous PNG writer and poet John Kasaipwalova.
He is now employed by the University of Papua New Guinea as the Director of the Madang Open Campus.
“I would rate my biggest achievements in Papua New Guinea as the direction of the Sail the Midnight Sun Trilogy with the Raun Raun Theatre actors and dancers and the poet, John Kasaipwalova, and my role in the construction of the wonderful Raun Raun Theatre building in Goroka,” Dr Murphy says.
“But it also gave me great pleasure to witness the first group of graduates from the Madang Open Campus in April 2006.
“It was a small group of seven people who graduated with a Bachelor of Management.
“I was very proud of them.”
He stood proud at Government House to receive his award.
“I was very proud to receive this award along with many other people who have contributed in their own ways to our country of Papua New Guinea.
“To be honoured in this way by my country - I became a citizen of Papua New Guinea in 1985 - means a great deal to me.”
Dr Murphy was educated at Melbourne and Monash Universities and then sent to Papua New Guinea as an Australian conscript in the Pacific Islands Regiment.
“Instead of being sent to Vietnam,” he recalls, “I was sent to Papua New Guinea to teach at the Military Cadet School in Lae.
“After that, I spent 10 years with Raun Raun Theatre and 25 years teaching and managing in tertiary educational institutions in Papua New Guinea.
“I have a formally adopted family of two children and now two grandchildren as well.
“In many ways, I regard my family as my major achievement.
“It has been a lifelong commitment.”
Dr Murphy’s contribution to the arts and culture in Papua New Guinea really began when he arrived in 1968.
“I was teaching English to officer cadets at Igam Barracks.
“During that time, we did a lot of creative writing, made a film based on Chinua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart and produced a play called Everyman (the African version).
“I then returned to Australia and came back to live permanently in Papua New Guinea in 1973.
“For two years, I was a lecturer in Expressive Arts at Goroka Teachers College.
“Two collections of student poetry, Hey Now and O Mama, were published and 14 stage productions were mounted during that time.
“One of these productions was a folk opera called Betlail based on a story from Siassi and another was called Poket Buruk, a village play about alcoholism.
“These two productions formed a model for Raun Raun Theatre which I started in 1975 under the National Cultural Council.
“I directed and developed this theatre company for 10 years until 1984.”
The following are the productions completed at that time:
Village plays: 1975 Poket Buruk [TP: Broke!]a play about alcoholism; 1975 TupelaTingting [TP: Double Bind] a play about gambling; 1976 O Mama na Papa
a play about urban youth; 1977 Kago [TP: Cargo]a play about cargoism; 1978 Ol Kain Sik Nogut [TP: Health Problems]a play about malnutrition, diarrhoea, sexually transmitted disease; 1979 Taim Bilong Kopi [TP: The Coffee Season]a play about coffee growing; 1980 Femili Plenin [TP: Family Planning]; 1981 Wara Suplai [TP: Water Supply]; 1982 Politiks [TP: Politics].
Folk operas: 1975 Betlail [The Twins]an origin story from the Siassi Islands; 1975 Ai Bilong Bilak Bokis [TP: The Eye of the Flying Fox]an origin story from the Finschhafen area; 1976 Tewel Bilong Kokatu [TP: The Cockatoo Spirit]an origin story from the Finschhafen area; 1977 Diwaz [The Trickster]an origin story from the Kiwai area of the Gulf; 1978 The Legend of Jari an origin story from the East Sepik; 1980 Sail the Midnight Sun based on poetry by John Kasaipwalova; 1982 My Tide Let Me Ride
based on poetry by John Kasaipwalova; 1984 The Dance of the Snail
based on stories told by John Kasaipwalova.
These three performances by John Kasaipwalova formed the Sail the Midnight Sun trilogy.
Over the 10 years, the Company performed in many of the villages in the five Highlands provinces, throughout all of the 19 provinces of Papua New Guinea and featured at several international arts festivals.
It was a remarkable experience and demonstrated the potential in Papua New Guinea for institutions of excellence.
Two of the highlights of this performance history were the premiere of Sail the Midnight Sun at the South Pacific Arts Festival in Port Moresby in 1980 and the performances of the first two parts of the trilogy at the Adelaide Festival in 1984.
“I served as a member of the National Cultural Council of Papua New Guinea from 1978 to 1984,” Dr Murphy says.
“In 1986, I began my current job at the University of Papua New Guinea as the Director of the Madang Open Campus, previously called the Madang University Centre.
“This involves mostly administering and teaching at a distance education facility but, during this period of more than 20 years, I have also conducted theatre workshops, organised creative writing workshops, published four issues of the journal Mazoz: New Writing and Arts from Papua New Guinea and written teachers resource books for Expressive Arts.
“I have also been involved in extensive research projects which led to the writing of my PhD thesis: Raun Raun Theatre and its role in the construction of a national culture in Papua New Guinea.
“I completed this PhD through our own university, the University of Papua New Guinea, which was always my aim.
“In fact, my work in education and culture in Papua New Guinea was not really in two separate fields because they are in many ways the same thing.
“The 10-year experience at Raun Raun Theatre was a real education for the actors and dancers, and myself.
“Even though they generally had very little formal education, I regard them now as highly-educated people, educated through travel and experience.
“Similarly, to work in the area of education in Papua New Guinea requires a sensitivity to culture and language and a commitment to them.
“Distance Education is an exciting area to work in because students need to become more independent and self-reliant and more readily take ownership of their own studies and their own learning.
“Learning at a distance has in fact become the most popular way globally to study and to acquire knowledge.
“My current interest is in literacy, in other words, the business of reading and writing, at all levels, in tok ples, tok pisin and tok inglis.
“In fact we are now working on the establishment of a Provincial Language and Literacy Resource Centre in Madang.”
Dr Murphy feels strongly about the arts and crafts in Papua New Guinea.
“I think the arts and crafts in Papua New Guinea need support in the form of national and provincial institutions where artists can work and exchange ideas.
“This is in fact the only way arts and crafts can grow and develop into a strong and vibrant contemporary culture.
“In other words, I think the former National Arts School or Creative Arts Centre needs re-establishing and devolving into provincial and regional areas.
“Cultures and the arts need to change and adapt.
“If they don’t, they will not survive.
“Preservation is not the right way, except of course in museums which are very valuable institutions in themselves, because you can only preserve something which is already dead.
“What we need is transformation, to use an expression of John Kasaipwalova’s.
“We need cultures and arts and education which are alive and exuberant and vibrant.”

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