Minister of Free Inquiry (aethyrflux) wrote,
Minister of Free Inquiry

all work & no play? depends on your definitions!

I have been reading Jane McGonigal's book, Reality is Broken... and I must say that I have been quite inspired by her evangelism of the transformative & motivational qualities of play

I also found a similar project online by writer, musician and theorist Pat Kane...

"Welcome to the play ethic. First of all, don't take 'play' to mean anything idle, wasteful or frivolous. The trivialisation of play was the work ethic's most lasting, and most regrettable achievement. This is 'play' as the great philosophers understood it: the experience of being an active, creative and fully autonomous person. The play ethic is about having the confidence to be spontaneous, creative and empathetic across every area of you life - in relationships, in the community, in your cultural life, as well as paid employment. It's about placing yourself, your passions and enthusiasms at the centre of your world.

    By clearing space for activities that are pleasurable, voluntary and imaginative - that is, for play - you'll have better memory, sharper reasoning and more optimism about the future. As Brian Sutton-Smith, the dean of Play Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, says, 'The opposite of play isn't work. It's depression. To play is to act out and be willful, exultant and committed, as if one is assured of one's prospects.'

    So to call yourself a 'player', rather than a 'worker', is to immediately widen your conception of who you are and what you might be capable of doing. It is to dedicate yourself to realizing your full human potential; to be active, not passive.

    The play ethic is what happens when the values of play become the foundation of a whole way of life. It turns us into more militant producers and more discriminating consumers. It causes us to re-prioritize the affairs of our hearts, to upgrade the quality of our emotional and social relationships. It makes us more activist in our politics, but less traditional in their expression. And most of all, the play ethic forces us to think deeply about how we should pursue our pleasures - and how we reconcile that with our social duties.

    So, just like the work ethic, the play ethic is a set of feelings and principles. But the difference between the two is huge. Work is always (to coin a phrase) the involuntary sector - the realm of necessity, where men and women have to do what they have to do. But as Sartre says, play is what you do when you feel at your most free, your most voluntary. When every positive decision you make about your life carries both a risk, and a promise, of something new and challenging taking place. This is why the play ethic isn't 'the leisure ethic': the last thing it involves is slumped relaxation..."


So, this may seem like somewhat of a tangent, but it actually reveals how deeply rooted these ideas of work & play ethics can be...

My research for this post began when I stumbled across this fascinating collection of photos
Creative Costumes of Still-Practiced Pagan Rituals of Europe

at first, I thought of a trickster spirit
particularly one that i have encountered at crash worship shows

but this inspiration quickly led me to track down some similar images from the Africa & Oceania...

I found myself searching for a particular archetype... and similar masks from around the world kept popping into my head... I started looking back in my notes online, searching for some clue as to how to interpret these images...


I had previously done some research on the roots of the Babalu Aye archetype in the African Diaspora


But I realized that I have oddly not done much research online about Papua New Guinea & the rest of Oceania, before... that part of my studies had taken place right before I had started working online regularly... and it suddenly became clear to me what I was seeking:

The Baining culture of Oceania (near PNG) has some ephemeral traditions, not unlike the burning of effigies or the sand painting of Navajo & Tibetan culture... they create elaborate costumes & masks for initiatory rituals & then burn them after a single ceremony
And here is the proverbial smoking gun...
They take this inspiration from a rather extreme attitude towards "work" vs. "play"

This can be contrasted with other traditions found in other areas of Oceania, also near PNG... such as the the Kovave & Eharo masks, that are constructed for play, enjoyment, gladness & amusement,+eharo&source=bl&ots=wISgFNP_Wd&sig=2o5fccgFcn7Bndtg9G69yxyPyHw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=WE89UrXHJYqQ2AWbqICwCA&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=kovave%2C%20eharo&f=false,+eharo&source=bl&ots=q7pkb7ueo0&sig=Lj5HcX4NP4oiVxToZfF_gWegFY4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=WE89UrXHJYqQ2AWbqICwCA&ved=0CF0Q6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=kovave%2C%20eharo&f=false


Although there is a great deal of information online... it is rather stunning how much information has not been & probably never will be digitized... for instance, I did a brief search for an early & prolific PNG Anthropologist, named "Frances E. Williams" & got this reference for a collection of his materials in a library, but there is almost nothing of his actual writing online

This is a decent overview of the Anthropological tradition in PNG...
Anthropology in Papua New Guinea: History and Continuities

Wikipedia has some decent, if sparse information about the Indigenous peoples of Oceania

Art of the Chachet, Kairak, and Uramot Baining of New Britain, Papua New Guinea by Dr. George A. Corbin

Ceremonies of the Gimi: Photographs by David Gillison


The Continuum Encyclopedia of Native Art: Worldview, Symbolism, and Culture in Africa, Oceania, and North America by Hope B. Werness

Aesthetic Realism: A New Perspective for Anthropology & Sociology (Selections from Oksapmin Society and World View) by Arnold Perey, Ph.D. - Columbia University, 1973

Ewa Oceanic Sepik Art Gallery provides a glimpse into the complex and diverse tribal art culture of the Sepik region of Papua New Guinea.

Voyages of the Amoenitas - Vanuatu

CRUSHEVIL: Research images by Lucy Cheung
Tag Archives: papua new guinea

In Praise of Tribal Art
From Africa, Oceania, Melanesia, Polynesia, Micronesia, Indonesia and the world.

Stories of Song and Dance: Performance and the Burrinja Collection

Alcheringa Gallery

Galería: Atua (Espíritus y el mundo sobrenatural)

Non-Western Art: Oceania

Mask (Kavat)

Melanesian helmet mask (kavat) from
the Baining people of the Gazelle Peninsula

Snake/Dragon of the Watam clans

Guide to Sepik River Carvings

Rebekie Bennington - illustrator type person finds stuff on the internet

Elissa Winer - pinterest collection of masks

Paperskin: The Art of Tapa Cloth


And when I started researching Tapa cloth mask, in particular, I came across this crazy awesome list of links from someone after my own heart & appetite for copious amounts of information...

Art of Oceania - Pacific - Masks - Tapa Cloth and more

From: Judy Decker (jdecker_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Mon Jun 16 2003 - 12:33:05 PDT

Dear Art Educators,

My survey respondents were interested in art of the Pacific -- quite a vast area to cover! If you have quality sites you have come across - Please post to the list. I will not be linking all of these - so if this is a topic that interests you - save images now. If it is masks you want - sort through this
list and pick out the links. (*updated by

Judy Decker - Ohio
Incredible Art Department


Lots of links to explore from

* Papua New Guinea - guide to artifacts - Papuan Gulf Masks - great intro info

* Art areas of Melanesia (map of New Guinea and adjacent islands)

Painted Faces

Masks from Middle Sepik River - Guide:

Papua New Guinea - New Britain - Guide to masks:

Chris Witcomb's Art History Links (I have not checked these links):

The Sepik - Art and Meaning - View Flash to see illustrations of art & html to read stories:

Oceania - brief summaries from Natural History Museum of Florence

Art of Polynesia and Melanesia. Indiana Museum of Art:

New Guinea Sculpture Garden at Stanford University:

The British Museum - Pacific (enter Pacific and Oceania in Compass search)

Pacific Collection - Australian Museum Online:

Papua New Guinea Online

Where Masks Still Dance

Huli People of Papua New Guinea -- Several pages of information - some images

Papua New Guinea -Masks and Tumbuans (commercial site - but has background information - small images):

Kavat Masks - East New Britain

Tribal Artifacts New Guinea (commercial site - but gives brief descriptions)

University of Missouri Museum of Anthropology:

Pacific Cultures - Logan Museum:

* Burt Glinn - New Guinea Photos

Art of Oceania - Museum sites with collections:
Polynesia links - with thumbnails of images:
Melanesia links - with thumbnail images:

Oceanic masks - New Guinea (commercial site - but quality images):
plaited masks

Tatanua Mask

Sepik Art - New Guinea polychrome vegetable panel
Art of Nuon Gulf - Mask of Tapa on light Armour:
See more examples of art - quality images - but no information:

Metropolitan Museum of Art

* Museum of Fine Art - Boston - Search Oceania, Polynesia, Melanesia & New Guinea

Oceanic Art - De Young:

* St. Louis Art Museum - Oceanic/Pacific Islands collection

Pacific Asian Museum - search by region:

Dallas Museum of Art - Pacific Collection:

* Music Archive for Papua New Guinea - has links to sound files:

Oceanic Art and Culture - links to check (several museums listed - search
their collections):


Links concerning Tapa/Bark cloth in particular:

Bark cloth New Guinea:

Tapa cloth - Information and images:

Tapa cloth - Crizmac:

Tapa Cloth Samoa:

Bark Cloth:

Tapa Image - from - Maui:

Some information on Tapa cloth

Tapa Image:

* BC GALLERIES - Tribal Art and Ethnographica Catalogue

Tapa cloth (view each region)

Tapa image:

* Care and Collection of Bark Paintings (conservation):

* Preserving Aboriginal Art at the Kluge-Ruhe Collection of the University of Virginia

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded