OURMedia Conference 2014 – a look back

21st May 2015

OURMedia Conference 2014 – a look back

Looking Back – Tara Douglas tells us more about her visit to the ‘OURMedia Conference 2014‘.

I was invited to represent Bournemouth University at the OURMedia Conference 2014

in Goroka, Papua New Guinea from 21-25 July, on the basis of my abstract being accepted. I was particularly delighted to fulfill a lifelong dream of visiting Papua New Guinea: Perhaps it had been early exposure to traditional art from Papua New Guinea that had first ignited my enduring enthusiasm for tribal art and culture.  As a child, I particularly remember an installation that had included the masks of the Mudmen from Asaro at the Commonwealth Institute in London.

The theme of Diverse Communities, Diverse Media for the 10th OURMedia conference suited the location.  Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse places in the world; in addition, The OURMedia network seeks to promote diversity in media, with the recognition that all communities need to communicate and to express themselves. Ultimately the stated goal of OURMedia is to design and develop initiatives that can strengthen citizens’ media, community media and alternative media in national and international arenas and as one of the founders of the OURMedia network, Professor Clemencia Rodriguez encourages us to see ‘media at the margins’ as something unique and different with a very different kind of power and capability (Rodriguez, 2014).

The conference included over 70 presenters from over a dozen countries; all conference submissions were peer-reviewed. My presentation, entitled ‘Tales of the Tribes: Animation as a Tool for Indigenous Representation’ was slotted into the session on Arts-based Approaches, and it was the only presentation at the conference on animating Indigenous narratives (my case studies are from the Indian context). During the conference I was charged with the discovery of the strength of Indigenous media in certain parts of the world.  The focus of this conference was the Pacific region. In contrast, Indigenous media is not provided for in India. Following on from the conference, I was able to make a second presentation to a group of interested students and professionals at the University of Goroka http://www.uog.ac.pg

that were interested in media and the arts and in the second half of the presentation, I introduced the idea of future collaboration for a first animated short film from Papua New Guinea: Having spent a few days in the library at the University, I had already identified several fascinating and highly original folktales from Papua New Guinea, and the artwork calls out to provide design styles for an animation film. My proposal was received with enthusiasm; however the logistics of proceeding with a collaboration would be considerable: There are currently no animation students or professionals in Papua New Guinea, and therefore such a project implies that animators would have to travel from elsewhere to train a local team.

I was determined to have some field research having travelled so far, so I stayed on for a further two weeks after the conclusion of the conference, and during that period, I travelled to the Sepik province, which has an international reputation for traditional sculpture. The Crocodile Festival is a new event that is organised annually at a village called Ambunti, four hours by canoe from Pagwi, up the Sepik River. Singing is something that that the people of this region excel in – it entails dressing up in full glory, adorned with feathers, shells, paint and grass skirts for cultural performances that recall the days of old, when the tribes celebrated their prowess as warriors. In this case, the Crocodile Festival also had an agenda to promote the preservation of the crocodile, which is revered by the people of the Sepik as a totemic being. It was utterly memorable to witness Singsing groups dancing with baby crocodiles under their arms on the banks of the Sepik, and I left Papua New Guinea with three beautiful sculptures squeezed into my luggage, wondering if it will be my destiny to return there and help out with the first animated folktale to emerge from Papua New Guinea.

Tara Douglas


Rodriguez, C., 2014. Understanding the Practices and Impact of ‘Media at the Margins’. Available from: https://www.v4c.org/en/content/understanding-practices-and-impact-media-margins [Accessed 4 October 2014].

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