To fight is an integral part of life for many highlanders of Papua New Guinea. A system of revenge skirmishes called ‘payback’ had created a seemingly endless cycle of reprisals and retaliations. Fighting in this area could be considered almost a form of sport with clans pitching themselves against enemy clans. The slogan ‘six 2 six’ originally an invitation to party all night long in the Wahgi valley area, has been appropriated into a hostile expression intended to unnerve opponents. In this context, six 2 six, literally means ‘we will fight you from dawn until dusk, 6am to 6pm’. Commissioned to replicate painted shield designs for various warring groups, Ka’s work visually acts in much the same way as football team colours.
Ka has incorporated beer advertising designs such as South Pacific lagers birds of paradise and the border design found on cartons of San Miguel lager.
The shield was one used to defend from spears and arrows but increasingly the use of home made shotguns and imported fire arms has made the cycle of fighting far more nefarious. Under the more recent painted design by Ka is quite an old shield whose surface shows earlier pecked designs and possibly the embedded tip of a few arrows also.
Curator, Pacific Arts
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra