31 October 2014


Background information to The Patea Kukuku Tribe of Papua New Guinea, working with Dr Yaso Nadarajah (research fellow) at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.

The Patea (Kukukuku) are a tribal community of over 90,000 residing in the highlands of Papua New Guinea (PNG), Melanesia’s largest and most populous island.   The Patea’s customary land covers some of the most rugged and beautiful mountains and valleys of the PNG highlands.    However its isolation and the lack of serviceable roads mean that most Patea villages are beyond the reach of basic government services and there is little external trade.   Meanwhile, the livelihoods of many Patea families are increasingly coming under threat from the destructive environmental practices of mining and forestry companies encroaching on their land.  While members of the Patea tribal community have expressed an interest in development and ‘opening themselves up’ to the outside world, there is an acknowledgement that this needs to happen in a way that the community has some control over

To that end, the ‘Patea Eco-Enterprise Project’was established in 2009 as a community development project built on a partnership between the Patea tribal community and Senior Research Fellow Yaso Nadarajah at the Globalism Research Centre, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.   The project was established as a long-term partnership;  its aim is to help the Patea people find ways of taking control of their own development and livelihoods in their own terms and at their own pace.
 There are several aspects to this task.  Through a series of small funds and partnerships the Patea have been able to come together and explore community-based solutions to the lack of employment, food insecurity and other problems in their villages.  They have established a number of creative ‘pilot projects’ including a collective pig-raising project, a sustainable farming and nutrition initiative, and a women’s co-operative which encourages women to become traders.  These pilot projects have been established in different villages around the Patea’s  customary territory, and will hopefully flourish and expand over time. 

Meanwhile the project has a broader aim.  At its outset,  Patea  Chiefs and Elders articulated that much of their culture had become lost or distorted through a long history of negative/corrosive outside interference.  They recognised that they must find new ways of nurturing, recovering and expressing their culture in order to gain the confidence and community strength to negotiate a new place in an ever-changing world.   As part of this process, the Patea have established a theatre group. Their first performance piece,  entitled “Tears of the Rainforest”,  powerfully asserts the Patea’s ancestry, heritage and relationship with the environment.    In September 2013, “Tears of the Rainforest”  will be performed at the regional  Lae Cultural Festival.   For many of those involved, this will be the first time they have travelled outside of their homeland.

And now the generous support of the Quilt Collective has been initiated by Gina Wilson from Eltham, in Victoria, Australia.   Yaso shared the project and the lives of the tribal community with Gina at dinner one day.   This conversation has led to this amazing Quilt Collective and generous gifts of handmade quilts as Gina connected through her networks and friends.   The first two quilts were given by Gina, and Yaso took them to the remotest part of the Patea community village.   The Elders and Yaso talked about who would need these quilts most – especially in the cold mountains and with so little means to buy clothes and warm coverings.   The Elders and Yaso decided that the young babies, the ones most vulnerable would benefit so much from these lovingly crafted quilts.  As Yaso presented these quilts on behalf of Gina Wilson, the mothers cried and the babies looked up with great joy as they were wrapped in these wonderful quilts, made with so much love.

These quilts, as we gather them and take them to Patea  Land and to the Patea  babies, represent a thread of great exchange and humanity – of that between all of you amazing women who make these quilts and these little babies who will grow up,  being wrapped in the warmth and care of the quilts handmade and sent from many parts of the world.  The best part is that they are new, handmade and with the names of the person who has made it.  We will also try very hard to make sure that we are able to give the names of the babies who have inherited these quilts.  They will remain in the family for as long as they hold together. 
This Quilt Collective already  represent so much of that which this Patea Eco-Enterprise project seeks to engender – one of universal  humanism, and one  of reciprocal exchange between someone so different from you – in care and respect and genuine effort.

15 October 2014

October 15, two quilts from Wodonga, Vic.

Margaret Martin made these two gorgeous quilts, which arrived today.  Thank you very much, Margaret - they will be greatly appreciated, and hopefully you will see a photo of them wrapped around a little person in due course, when Yaso has delivered the next lot of quilts and taken more photos :-)

11 October 2014

Update on PNG project from Yaso, October 2014

I have received an email and some new photos from Yaso, which I am posting here to bring all our quilt donors up to date on what she has been doing.

Hi Gina,
 It was exhausting and I was also down with a bad cough and fever - so it was quite a bit of effort to hold up.  But the project is growing well - and it is so rewarding to see the difference.
 I managed to go up to the last village, Yakepa which is about 37 kms from the previous village and it took us about 18 hours to get there - getting stuck in mud and trying to build little bridges across broken roads etc. But people were so excited when we got there. I travel on my own with the project team from there itself.

They had kept the quilts with them. They had carried it up previously when we brought it up to the second last village. I distributed them and have some photos and also took a small video clip. A very sad story in the midst of all this joy was that one of the small babies (6 months) who was on the list to receive a quilt died that night ( I am not sure, but I think it might have been pneumonia) . It was so tragic that next morning her father was there and  he told me. I handed him a quilt (one of the smaller fleece blankets you had made as extras) so he could wrap the child and place her in the grave. They can't afford coffins. 

 Thanks for collecting all those quilt.  I am still trying to work out how best to transport them.  One of the feedback from this project is that we are working with the tribal community as partners - not as charity or aid recipients  So we have been thinking of  some ideas in which we can work with your Quilt Collective - so that it becomes an enterprise. There were a couple of suggestions of  (a) making them and also teaching them (via handouts and video)  so that they can sell and develop skills and a livelihood  (b) create a partnership so they can share the making and we think of selling these quilts internationally with special logos etc.  
 I am meeting with a couple of my Masters students next week to discuss further - and we might all meet together and talk more. That way, there is also a couple of students who can be more regular than me.

I am happy to speak at the Probus Club. I am in Melbourne for a little while - (Sydney trip - 10th to 14th Nov), and another trip on 10th Dec. But otherwise, we can try and schedule something in. I can also show the 35 minute new video I have made of my work there. Just doing last minute edits on it. 

I am attaching a couple of photos. Will download the video and bring that up to you soon. I will attach the photos in separate emails. 

love and thanks for all your dedication and work

Dr. Yaso Nadarajah
Senior Research Fellow ( Globalism Research Center)  & Lecturer
School of Global, Urban and Social Studies

25 September 2014

September, one quilt from Gina.

Another quilt made from floral sheets and matching fabric from my stash.

6 September 2014

Sept 6 - One quilt by Gina.

Another quilt finished, again using cotton sheets and brushed cotton for the backing.

22 August 2014

August 15 - Two more quilts from Gina.

This little stack of quilts includes the one I posted a pic of earlier this month.  There is another one like it, and a green one.  I've got two more tops pieced and ready to be made up.

8 August 2014

August 8 - One quilt from Gina.

This is long overdue!  I have a huge stash of fabric to use just for baby quilts, but as always, finding the time to make them is the most difficult part.  This one is made using cotton sheets from an opshop, cut into strips which are sewn together then recut to form four patch blocks.  I've used some nice thick wadding found in an opshop, to fill it, and brushed cotton for the back.