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Papua New Guinea & The Mack Ruff Sketchbooks

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Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea (PNG) consists of the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. PNG lies to the north of Australia, from which it gained independence in 1975.

The western half of the island, previously a Dutch colony, was annexed by Indonesia in 1961, and is now known as Irian Jaya. The indigenous people of west are of similar creed and culture to people of PNG.

There are over 800 indigenous languages spoken in Papua New Guinea. English is the official language. Most people speak Tok Pisin (Melanesian Pidgin) as well as their local village language, Tok Place.

Today, one of the most cultural diversity regions in PNG is centred on the Sepik river.

The Mack Ruff Sketchbooks

There are around 12 Mack Ruff sketchbooks in total, five are included here:

  • The Gulf Sketchbook
  • The Maprik Sketchbook
  • The Ramu Sketchbook
  • The Rivers Sketchbook: Keram, Yuat, Karawari & Blackwater Rivers
  • The Sepik Sketchbook

The sketchbooks were made from the early-1960s to the mid-1980s. They were drawn on location in villages and from photographs. The drawings record distinct motifs taken from: artifacts, ceremonial objects, canoes, long houses, etc.

Drawings are favoured over photograqphs by Professor Ruff, because (From the 1984 Rivers Sketchbook):

"The clarity of detail is increased, comparisons become easier, salient characteristics become more obvious. Stress can be shifted so that small details which may not be emphasised in photographic images, may be brought forward. Fascinating overlaps in design styles are easier to pinpoint through flattened drawings."