Wycliffe Australia member Peter Brook has been working in Papua New Guinea since 1996, primarily as a vernacular literacy trainer and consultant, but since 2011 as an Arts Worker.
Papua New Guinea’s rich tradition of visual arts – carving, costume, painting, weaving – is one of the country’s most distinctive features.
Like spoken languages visual arts are also a form of communication. Churches and missions have more to learn about using local visual literacy skills in discipleship and evangelism.
Since assuming his new role Peter has lived and worked with several communities and artists in the Sepik region. Using photography and video Peter documents local artistic expressions, seeking to better understand world views, cultures and cultural art forms.
In November 2010 Peter met Nanias, an artist working on the north west coast on Papua New Guinea. Over the next 2 years he grew to know Nanias well and discovered that Nanias is a ‘custodian’ of the Kwoma visual language.
Together Nanias and Peter embarked on documenting the complex visual ‘languages’ of bark painting, carving and dance of the Kwoma people.
About halfway through 2011 Peter set Nanias the challenge of painting stories from the Bible using traditional designs and images of his clan. The result was a beautiful set of paintings of the Genesis creation account and the beginning of a series on the Life of Christ. Nanias was transformed as he read the scriptures to accurately translate these stories into the Kwoma visual language.
In April and October 2012 Peter went out with Nanias to his village to document their arts and culture. When the villagers saw the new ‘biblical’ paintings their enthusiastic response was ‘These are ours!’
The paintings in their local visual language spoke straight to their hearts. These stories of the Bible were no longer foreign.