Traditional Paintings - PNG
ABSTRACT Many painted artefacts made of plant materials from Papua New Guinea (PNG) are held in museum collections around the world. They are known to be at high risk of deterioration but little research has been carried out into their manufacture. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in PNG undertaken by the author in 1986 and 1987, the materials and techniques of traditional painting of this type of artefact as still practised are described together with their cultural contexts. The preparation for the painting of wood in particular is described. Details of the inorganic and organic colorants used and how these are obtained and prepared into paints are given. It was found that many traditional PNG painting techniques incorporate plant saps and oils as binding media, a finding which implies that the view that ethnographic paintwork usually powders because of lack of any medium is not always appropriate for PNG artefacts. Likely reasons for the discoloration, flaking and powdering of paint based on the fieldwork findings are discussed, stressing the sensitivity of these artefacts to changes in pH and relative humidity. Understanding the cultural context is shown to be essential when determining causes of deterioration and proposing treatment plans. It is shown that the make‐up of traditional paints varies considerably across PNG. This increased knowledge enables more reliable assumptions of composition of museum artefacts from PNG but, because of the complexities described, scientific analysis is considered an essential complementary tool.