The Mount Hagen Show is Papua New Guinea’s largest cultural extravaganza. The Show has its origins in colonial days when colonial administrators sought to reduce tribal fighting by promoting inter-marriage and channelling inter-tribal rivalry into positive forms of competition. Major sing-sing events like the Mt Hagen Show and Goroka Show became opportunities for tribes to gain status without bloodshed, by competing to put on the best cultural performance. The Mt Hagen Show today is still a competition, with tribal groups vying for sizeable cash prizes and of course the honour and glory that first prize at the “Hagen Show” brings to one’s tribe.
The Show attracts cultural groups from all over Papua New Guinea, even from Bougainville and the Trobriand Islands. The local crowd of 50,000 mainly flock in from the Highlands provinces plus Madang and Lae as these are the only places with road access to Mount Hagen. In contrast, less than 300 overseas visitors attended last year’s Show, so it is still definitely a “local” festival and not just for tourists. There are also agricultural and trade displays, health awareness programs, sideshow alley and all manner of other activities at the Show which make it the highlight of every year for the Highlands people.
Some very remote villagers come to town only once per year, for the Show, so you will see quite a kaleidoscope of faces just in the spectator crowd, even before you turn your attention to the sing-sing arena. Tourists and locals with cameras are given special seats with the best view, and you will also have permission to enter the performance arena to take close-ups of the dancers.
Apart from the Show itself, there is also another, smaller sing-sing on the day before the Show. This is held at Paiya Village about half an hour’s drive out of town, is more informal without the huge crowds, and provides an authentic village backdrop for photography, with opportunities for watching the performers putting on their make-up and body decorations before the performance.
We have packages from short weekender to longer and high-end tours. Each of the tours below can be viewed, downloaded and printed for your records. When considering our tours, please be aware that this is the peak period for accommodation in Mount Hagen, so the better properties will sell out very quickly.