Discover the array of colourful cultural events in PNG

cultural events in PNG

Thousands of years in the making, the culture of Papua New Guinea is unique and untouched. Home to hundreds of different tribes and thousands of different traditions, the country is bursting with cultural events in PNG, each more extraordinary than the last.


In the remote villages, visitors will find tribes that passionately maintain their traditions through art, initiations and ‘sing-sings.’ At sing-sings, tribes and villages gather to demonstrate customary dance, music and traditional costume. Sing-sings provide the opportunity for visitors to witness tribal traditions in an explosion of colour and sound. There are regular sing-sings featured at cultural festivals held annually throughout the country. Here are some that are not to be missed.

Opening image: A boy at the Kenu and Kundu festival. Image: David Kirkland.


One of the fantastic cultural events in PNG, the National Mask and Warwagira Festival. Image: David Kirkland.


National Mask and Warwagira Festival

The National Mask and Warwagira Festival began in 1995 to promote the mask cultures of Papua New Guinea. The traditional masks are inspired by tribal mythology and ancestral spirits. The National Mask and Warwagira Festival has evolved to showcase mostly the culture of East New Britain, particularly the Tolai, Baining and Pomio people. The Tolai people are the largest tribal group in the Province, and the ‘tubuan’ and ‘duk-duk’ masks remain a potent part of Tolai culture. Strict ceremonies and rituals are observed, and shell money called ‘tabu’ is still highly valued and exchanged.


Sepik River Crocodile and Arts Festival. Image: David Kirkland.


Sepik River Crocodile and Arts Festival

Crocodiles are an important part of the Sepik River cultural heritage, and symbolise strength, power and manhood. In the East Sepik Province, man and crocodile share a special bond built on reverence and fear. Many men boast of scars cut into their skin from shoulder to hip during initiation, which resemble the back of a crocodile. The Sepik River Crocodile & Arts Festival is held annually in Ambunti. Communities living along the Sepik River come together to perform traditional dances and pay homage to the crocodile. The East Sepik Province is also renowned nationally for its master carvers and artisans.


One of the premier cultural events in PNG, the Mount Hagen Cultural Show. Image: David Kirkland.


Mount Hagen Cultural Show

The Mount Hagen Cultural Show was first staged in 1964 by many different tribes from the Western Highlands Province. The purpose of the show was to share cultural experience and diffuse the ever-present tensions by bringing tribes together in one positive cultural event to celebrate the unique cultural diversity of the Highlands. It is one of the most exciting cultural events in PNG.


A performer at the Goroka Show. Image: David Kirkland.


Goroka Show

The Eastern Highlands Cultural Show, known as the Goroka Show, is a significant event in the province and one of the most well-known tribal gatherings and cultural events in Papua New Guinea. Held annually in Goroka Town, the event draws over a hundred tribes and cultural groups from all over the Highlands to participate in sing-sings and riotous displays of colour and sound. At more than 60 years old, it is the longest running annual cultural festival in PNG, bringing thousands of tourists to the country every year in September during the week of the nation’s Independence Day celebrations. It has been dubbed one of the most “colourful shows on Earth.”


Enga dancers at the Mount Hagen Show. Image: David Kirkland.


Enga Show

Staged in Wabag Town in the Enga Province, this Highlands festival celebrates the unique cultural heritage of the people of Enga. Enga is the only province in PNG where the people are known to speak one language. The Province also has intriguing historical and cultural attractions like the Take Anda Museum and Art Gallery, and the ancient Mulisos Yokonda Salt Ponds.


Kenu & Kundu Festival. Image: David Kirkland.


National Kenu & Kundu Festival

One of the most exciting cultural events in PNG is the National Kenu and Kundu Festival in Alotau, Boats (kenu) and drums (kundu) are the pillars of this celebration, when the Melanesian tribes from the 600-plus islands of Milne Bay Province come together to dance, sing, trade and race. The canoes and kundu drums widely used in Milne Bay culture are meticulously crafted from special woods under strict customs. Expect to see incredible dancing, canoe racing, traditional and contemporary arts, and more at the festival.


Calendar of events


Month Event Location
July National Mask and Warwagira Festival Kokopo, East New Britain Province
August Sepik River Crocodile and Arts Festival Ambunti, East Sepik Province
August Enga Cultural Show Wabag, Enga Province
August Bougainville Chocolate Festival Arawa, Autonomous Region of Bougainville
August Mount Hagen Cultural Show Mount Hagen, Western Highlands Province
September Goroka Show Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province
September Frangipani Festival Rabaul, East New Britain Province
September Kutubu Kundu and Digaso Festival Lake Kutubu, Southern Highlands Province
September Hiri Moale Festival Port Moresby, National Capital District
October Morobe Agricultural Show Lae, Morobe Province
November National Kenu and Kundu Festival Alotau, Milne Bay Province


For more to explore in stunning Papua New Guinea, check out the Baining Fire Dance Festival. 

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