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Old 05-10-2003, 09:00 PM
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Artists must get act together by William Natera (Wantok Reporter)

ARTISTS in Papua New Guinea must stop being too dependent on handouts and work hard to develop themselves and the art industry.
World renowned arts consultant, Justin Macdonnell, who was in Port Moresby earlier this year, told pngbd.com that various "complications" had stopped him from exporting and importing PNG performing arts (theatre, music, dance, writing,etc) internationally when he visited this country five years ago.

Macdonnell was in the capital in March at the invitation of the Ivahi Performing Troupe who performed in Sydney, Australia, during the anniversary of the Kokoda campaign last year. Troupe members had asked him if he could help them do more.

Macdonnell was able to watch a performance by the Ivahi troupe, the Originz company, formed by seasoned director, Gary Stonehouse, and the Wakawa Performing Troupe.

The performances had him feeling "enthusiastic all over again" about PNG art and culture, however, he made it clear that he was not here to provide handouts.

Macdonnell said that his role is to provide help in the sense that if any of these groups want to come to the 'party' and get their act together to the point of providing reliable shows that are ready to tour, are organised with a good proposed budget and a good video tape etc, then his role is to find them commercial opportunities.

"In the past, I've wanted to do ths and didn't succeed. An I have to be blunt. The reason it didn't succeed is that people here didn't get their act together - literally as well as figuratively.

"It's like we're taught in school, God helps those who help themselves. And in a sense, not that I think I'm God, but I can only do so much," he said.

Macdonnell said he could not sell any of the groups without a decent video.

"For years after I came here last time, I begged people to produce some good videos, and no one ever did. And it's not enough for me to be enthusiastic, I have to go to festivals and promoters either in Australia or other parts of the world and tell them 'I saw this fantastic show' and these people would ask to see the material, and you can imagine what would happen when I tell them there isn't one.

"The next person who comes in may have a video of a show in Senegal or Colombia and who's going to get the engagement. It's hard," he said.
Macdonnell said that he thinks art and culture here is terrific, that there is opportunity to take it to the rest of the world and that he would like to help make the opportunity, but he cannot make the product.

"That is the challenge, and if someone wants to take up that challenge, my colleagues and I will be happy to work with PNG artists and managers to do that," Macdonnell said.

Gary Stonehouse, who was also present at the interview, supported his comments and said that artists must not have a "handout mentality". He said that art activities that were popular in the past have stopped, basically because the handouts had stopped.

Stonehouse said artists need to organise themselves to ensure that their art and the industry is developed.

Macdonnell is based in Sydney but was to take up a post as programming director of the Performing Arts Centre of Greater Miami in the United States of America sometime this year.
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