ID numberART92198
Collection typeArt
TitleTraditional Mekeo dance
Measurementoverall: 29.4 x 46.6 cm
Object typeDrawing
MakerDargie, William
Place madeNew Guinea: Papua New Guinea, Papua, Port Moresby
Date madeDecember 1943 - January 1944
Physical descriptionwatercolour, pen and ink on paper on board
CopyrightAWM copyright
DescriptionA sketch of a Mekeo dance, performed at nigh by the New Guineas in traditional dress. Dargie noted:
"The Mekeo tribe hails from Yuille Is. They are noted for their low moral standards, and their continued addiction to the practise of sorcery. The Administration has had great trouble in the past to persuade them that it is not desirable for them to continue with their costume of buying their dead under their houses. The Hall Sound area has been fairly intensively missionized [sic] by the Sacred Heart Mission, which had its headquarters at Issoudon, in Indre, in France.
The origin of this particular dance is unknown by the native themselves. One of them said that it had been danced in his village by his father and his father's father. Among the dancers will be seen a devil, wearing a mask and headdress modelled somewhat on the design favoured by Ned Kelly; a man miming a pregnant woman; and various other grotesqueries. Nevertheless, the dancing itself is undistinguished: the performers bunch together and monotonously shuffle in a roughly circular path around the dancing ground. On the other hand, the singing is intensely barbaric, and dramatically effective. For the first twelve beats of the drum the dancers shuffle around in complete silence. Then on the thirteenth beat one voice begins, very high in pitch and pianissimo, a thin wail, which is taken up and increased in volume by the rest, until at the end of another six beats it has become a wild yell of ferocity. Then on that sixth beat it stops dead, cut off at its climax, and the crow shuffles around again in silence for another twelve beats, when the whole business begins again".