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In 2022, Bougainville Copper Limited has set focus on celebrating and promoting Bougainvillean culture. The company was thrilled to be invited to sponsor cultural events panning across North, Central and South Bougainville, in conjunction with Tourism PNG, and the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG).

The Company has always had strong ties to Bougainville, now more than ever with BCL’s current team being predominantly Bougainvillean. BCL was proud to contribute over K60,000 in assistance to the Inaugural Tama Tama Festival in Arawa, the Siwai Cultural Festival – which the company has supported for the past two years, and for the first time, the Bougainville Mona Festival.

All three festivals form a showcase of Bougainvillean culture, including arts and crafts, song, dance, and cuisine and BCL and its staff were fully immersed in the vibrancy of these activities. The team for example were able to see first-hand the fine art of making Tama tama from start to finish. Tama tama is a Bougainvillean delicacy which is an occasional dish made from root vegetable tapioca, banana or taro accompanied with a rich coconut cream.

Seventeen participants were judged on their traditional bilas (traditional clothes), preparation and hygiene, presentation and taste, with no modern kitchen equipment permitted, teams used traditional tools – such as shell scrapers, and bamboo to scrape coconuts and act as water jugs. Six winners were announced for the two different types of Tama tama prepared – Kakasi and Tornisi. BCL Village Liaison Officer and Paramount Chief of Pokpok Island Peter Garuai was invited to be part of the judging panel and accepted the honour.

The Siwai Festival, which is now part of the Tourism PNG roster, featured a colourful display of different sing-sing groups from the Southern Bougainville region. Arts and craft were also front and centre, with vendors that included traditional Siwai basket and weave artisans and others who crafted meri blouses, carvings, and clay pots.

On Sohano Island, the traditional Mona’s paddled to land greeted by a welcome party of garamut drummers and a sing-sing, overseen by the people of the island. The Mona is a common term for Bougainville’s traditional canoe, used extensively for voyages, expeditions, trade shuttles, fishing, and warring. The people of North Bougainville, claim that the Mona canoe originates from their region, believing that the crafts date back to the migratory era. The three day festival was a success, as art, craft, culture and tradition was proudly on display.

BCL chairman Sir Melchior Togolo said the celebration of Bougainvillean culture was paramount for the preservation of local identity and, also for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations.

“The introduction of the internet and new technology sees our youth start to shift their focus away from tradition and culture which is simply a reality of modern life. That is why our cultural events are so important, as they provide an opportunity for us to reflect on our origins and celebrate our unique identity. This helps to ensure the things we hold dear as a people are not lost in the new age of technology,” he said.

Sir Mel said it is why BCL is so firmly committed to supporting local cultural and tourism events that promote the richness, traditional values, and natural beauty of Bougainville.