Interview with creator of Meisoga play, 16 year-old Andrew Kuliniasi
(22/02/17) Rehearsals are well under way for the Papua New Guinea written and directed play, “Meisoga”. Opening on March 16, “Meisoga”, will tell the legendary tale of the Meisoga clan’s matriarch, Sine Kepu, and how she led her people to find safety, food security and water on a new island in Milne Bay.
The play, which deals with cultural taboos, interfamilial marriage, witchcraft, and inter-tribal bloodshed, is written and directed by Andrew Kuliniasi, a sixteen-year old student who has already been involved in a number of productions staged by the Moresby Arts Theatre.
In the interview below, Andrew discusses the play, the importance of theatre in PNG culture and his own cultural background.
1. So what is Meisoga all about?
The story is about how the Meisoga clan came to be on the island of Misima in the Milne Bay province. The Meisoga is one of the biggest clans on Misima island and the word Meisoga itself means Sea Eagle.
2. What era is it set in? Today? Yesteryear?
It is set in the time before the Missionaries came to PNG. In PNG we’d say “all Tumbuna time.”
3. Why did you decide to write this play?
I can’t say it was really a decision actually. It’s just something I started one night and kept writing over and over until a month later and it was finished. The real decision was as to whether or not to put stage it. That took some thought but I decided it was worth it.
4. How important are Milne Bay values in your life?
Custom is very important to me. I grew up with my grandparents who instilled in me what they were taught growing up in the village so we had a lot of practice learning traditions and values. I thank God every day that my grandparents are still alive because they know more about these things and don’t hesitate to share or lecture us about it. Ha ha.
5. Is there anything about your culture that makes you feel especially proud?
I feel that just being from Milne Bay makes me proud. It’s a collection of traditions and stories as well as customs and the whole “size 28” thing that’s so rich and vibrant and I feel the same way towards being Papua New Guinean.
6. Does the play contain much conflict?
The play contains a lot of conflict. It is a story about survival really and what people will do to survive and how it changes them. So yes there’s a lot of spear fight but also inner conflicts within characters as well.
7. How important for PNG’s culture is it for people to start writing plays, stories and songs about PNG?
PNG is rich in culture. PNG is fascinating and mysterious and unique that you never know what you’re getting. They don’t call us the land of the unexpected for nothing. There is so much material out there to write songs and book and plays but if we don’t do that our culture dies. Who we are dies. That’s scary. There won’t be anything unique about us. That’s why I’m putting on the show, to inspire people to write about our amazing country.
8. What are your long-term ambitions regarding theatre?
I want to be an actor, write a few scripts and even a book or two. I’ve been working on four but, hey!, there’s plenty of time for it. Anything is possible in PNG. It is the land of the unexpected, right?