Constitution Walk

 

Location: Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

Client: DFAT / Technical Enabling Unit / University of Papua New Guniea (UPNG) and Pacific Institute of Leadership and Governance (PILAG)

Status: Completed 2018

 

Working in partnership with Architectus, JCA were appointed by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) through the Technical Enabling Unit (TEU) to create a connection between the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) and Pacific Institute of Leadership and Governance (PILAG) campus'. Constitution Walk forms part of the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct, a joint Papua New Guinean (PNG) and Australian Government initiative at the University of Papua New Guinea. The initiative is intended to bring together the many other PNG-Australia leadership initiatives across PNG. Designed to support the PNG Government’s efforts to achieve its public sector reform objectives. ‘Constitution Walk’ provides a physical link between UPNG and PILAG. These distinguished centres of learning are core institutions of the Pacific Leadership and Governance Precinct, which is equipping the next generation of ethical public service leaders with strong policy and economic skills. The precinct is comprised of a number of new buildings spread out between the neighboring sites of UPNG and PILAG, a centre established to up-skill public servants, developed and designed for the purpose of encouraging greater collaboration between the students of both institutions. Constitution Walk is approximately 950 metres long and connects the Sir Sere Pitoi Rumana building and new Library at PILAG to the new Lecture Theatre and School of Business and Public Policy within UPNG. The path, which features landscaping, security lighting and nine sculptures made by local artists, helps build deeper linkages between these key national institutions. 

The approach by JCA and Architectus was to commission 10 Port Moresby based Papua New Guinean artists to create a series of sculptures that were to be sculptural representations of a theme. The artworks were to be of robust materials, PNG inspired and dispersed along the walkway, to help broaden and enhance active participation and strong connectivity between the institutions. The artists were to have a broad range of life experiences in order to bring as much diversity to the creative approach as possible. The artists were male, female, young, old, they came from a variety of cultural, educational, economic, and social backgrounds. They were people who grew up in Port Moresby, people who grew up in their villages, people who were connected to the culture in their villages, others who had adopted the more hybridized brand of PNG culture found in Port Moresby. Some who were church going Christians, some who thought they should go to church more often but really couldn’t be bothered, some who didn’t go at all and one who knew how to use traditional sorcery to put supernatural power into artwork. Some artists were sculptors but most were painters who were excited about the prospect of learning a new medium of expression. Some had fine arts degrees, some had been gifted their creative knowledge by previous generations. One artist is a master of initiation ritual scarification in his village. 

The theme was to reference the important historical value of the sites, be relevant to the current socio-political discourse in PNG and provide an opportunity for the artists and public to engage and be inspired by the content. The theme selected was The Preamble to Papua New Guinea’s Constitution. The Preamble contains the Adoption of the Constitution, 5 National Goals and Directive Principles, Basic Rights and Basic Social Obligations. The Preamble importantly outlines the values that inform the Constitution. It clearly and succinctly defines the way Papua New Guineans should expect to be treated and the way they are expected to treat others and the environment. It is utopian in many ways as it is intended to always be aspirational. The artists selected parts of The Preamble that spoke to them and created artworks that reflected their strong feelings of connection to those statements. The artworks created are not only reflections of various parts of The Preamble but the representation of very personal stories, some heart wrenching and some uplifting. JCA and Architectus worked closely with all the artists throughout the project, managing the clients expectations against the skills and quality achievable from the artists. Working in open workshops with limited tools and still learning the skills of manipulating metalwork, the process of assisting and capacity building the artists became a process of shared experiences. In both understanding and accepting the ‘hand made’ nature of the artwork, the imperfections within each sculpture and their evolution as through experience the artwork would change as the artists discovered something new and interesting in texture and patina. This become a part of the role - a journey of guiding the outcome and assisting the client in understanding the importance of the end result having a very personal response to those that worked on each piece. The art needed to be Papua New Guinean. 

This is the first time The Preamble has been presented in public for the public to read freely. As The Preamble is written in English, through this project, The Preamble has been translated into the other official languages of Tok Pisin and Hiri Motu for the first time. The sculptural and written representations of The Preamble along Constitution Walk have resulted in the most equitable and democratic display of The Preamble in the country’s history. This unique public project, which was initially conceived to allow access between two institutions of learning, became a life changing experience for the artists and all involved. Strong friendships were founded, all artists learned new skills, everyone involved learned about The Preamble and one artist moved out of the settlements and into full time employment. 

The completed works now offer young children traveling along the walkway daily to school and home again, the students and staff who attend both UPNG and PILAG, and the public who visit the art, the ability to ask the questions. As Dame Meg Taylor put it in her introduction, “After over forty years of independence, are we satisfied that Papua New Guinea today reflects the National Goals and Directive Principles? Have we been forthright and true to the aspirations in the National Goals and Directive Principles? Have we met our Obligations, have we honoured the aspirations of those who contributed to our Independence and our Constitution?”