Crawford House Publishing
New Guinea: People Colour Ritual 

The photographs in this book are the result of twenty-five years of travel and more than 3000 stills taken in New Guinea (including Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya, or West Papua) by Charles and Josette Lenars on five visits between 1966 and 1992. This period represents a crucial series of transitions in the lives of the people of New Guinea from colonial to postcolonial worlds of experience. Many New Guineans in the 1960s were still maintaining their magnificent indigenous forms of decoration and display, in connection with elaborate festivals and rituals. Many were, and are, innovatively adapting and recreating their experiential worlds with blends of old and new decorative elements.

Papua New Guinea in particular has undergone very rapid and far-reaching alterations in lifestyles since the 1960s, in terms of transport and communications, political involvements, economic processes, and religious transformations. In some places, people still travel by small, single-engine Cessna aircraft and land on beaten-earth runways in remote spots. Frontiers of exploration and economic change continue to move into the tracks of the jungles and montane rainforests.

The people of New Guinea have much to show and teach non-New Guineans, and the images presented here along with the text are a representation of some of the New Guinea peopleís sophistication and knowledge. The book is divided into chapters that reflect the various places and communities visited by the Lenars. Their photographs portray striking gatherings and ceremonies, patterns of village life, sacred artworks, and brilliant body decorations that relate the people deeply to their environment and their ritual and religious notions of their place within the cosmos. Echoes of the islandís wildlife, such as the unique range of birds of paradise, crocodiles, cassowaries, and abundant insects, are seen as recurring themes, demonstrating the close link of the New Guineans with their ecosystems.

These photographs capture the vitality and exuberance of the indigenous world of the New Guinea peoples, aspects of their lifestyles and ritual practices, their displays of themselves and the thoughts that they wish to invoke or project through their dress. The 20th century brought a wide variety of new openings into these peopleís lives, but it also brought conflict and pain, and the strains of rapid alterations in their religious ideas and social systems, together with a quest for an integrated sense of their own identities, self-worth and dignity. This book serves as a record of their traditional identities as these people has historically created them.

The photographs are enhanced by careful descriptive narrative and ethnographic text materials, developed for this project by Andrew Strathern and Pamela J. Stewart, whose combined research experience in New Guinea stretches from 1964 to the present day, in particular in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.


Andrew Strathern & Pamela Stewart

Charles & Josette Lenars






300 full-colour photographs


Hardcover; approx. 304 pages


285 x 285 mm



© Copyright 2018 Crawford House Publishing Australia