"Suna is a word in Yuri language used to describe a middle ground, a safe and central location in a village ideal for gathering, and distant enough from potential conflicts at the borders. My home in the Wahgi Valley of Papua New Guinea was built in 2015, quickly becoming a meeting point for relatives, extended family from the Yuri Alaiku tribe of South Simbu, and local papa graun (custodial land owners). The round house became a site of exchange, organisation and learning for generations of men (a hausman or men's house) to help enrich our lives through artistic practice and traditional knowledge, while encouraging self-development and community participation."
"As a young man, I have bonded closely with my cousins in the region for over a decade. Our Uncles provided a connection to our seemingly lost traditions and customs. My background as an artist in Australia first steered me towards our history of shield (kuman) making, and as Yuri men this became a starting point for our joint efforts to build something from the legacy of our tumbuna (ancestors), and together educate ourselves.
"Our artistic projects have centred around the Kuman or Wahgi Shield, as the history of tribal warfare is one thing that has effectively brought us together. Our headquarters is a place of collaborative learning and expression where we tell stories, address conflict, bung (party), draw, paint, film, photograph and come together at times when it is most needed.
"Eri Ari Ike describes a protected and sacred dwelling, or 'safe house'. Our kuman are created and stored in the hausman, and are only presented publicly at times when critical impact is seen as vital for survival (i.e a fight). Our latest iteration of 'shield paintings' line the exterior wall of the temporary house on Cockatoo Island, in their essence signalling the presence of my fellow group members back home in PNG, and deflecting potential threats from disturbing important activities occurring inside.
"Haus Yuriyal is made up of at least 25 current members, ranging in ages and cultural backgrounds from Simbu, Jiwaka and Southern Highlands Provinces. As our projects have grown, a house rule of inclusiveness has strengthened us as a group over time. Collaborative works presented in Suna include recent side projects with a newly established women's weaving group led by my mother Veronica Gikope, and local music and video producers: Elizah Kippex (Kippex Productions), Jaycee Daniel (JD Productions), and Sil Bolkin (Galkope Audio Lab). The back catalogue of work provided by these musicians has helped connect me to my original headquarters in the Highlands for many years.
"A custom Haus Piksa (picture house) provides a second venue for the housing of audio and visual works as part of the Suna complex. Kia Milin Iki refers to the concept of a 'spirit house' or haus tambaran, a cultural understanding of still and motion photography that interprets these mediums as a carrier of spirit. Original video works by Haus Yuriyal including Haus Man (2012) and The Fight (2010) will open the picture house, while allowing for open screening sessions and general use for the duration of the exhibition."