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8 October 2014 / leggypeggy

Let’s get the Goroka snake dance out of the way

Snake dancer, Goroka Show

A bit of grass that missed the soot treatment

Snake dancers, Goroka Show

The dancers get underway

Some of my readers are very, very squeamish when it comes to snakes. I know this because they’ve told me. So I thought I’d get the Goroka snake dancing out of the way, so these readers don’t have to live in fear that more snakes are on the way (this time around).

This group of all-male dancers was easy to spot. Covered in black soot, they are one of only a few of the performing tribes that blacken their grass adornments as well as their already black skin.

The snake, however, is a bit more colourful with a few rows of red and white dots and plenty of menacing red teeth. This year’s snake was made of a spongy sort of tube (maybe foam) covered in fabric. It was very flexible and probably quite light. I was told that snakes used to be made of wood. What a struggle to carry.

Lead snake dancer, Goroka Show

The lead dancer stops for a smoke

I came upon these dancers early on the first day of the show, when they were having a rest between numbers—the lead fellow was even having a smoke. Looking at the photos now, I can’t figure out exactly how many dancers there were or even how long the snake was. But I was impressed to see that there were dancers of all ages.

In fact, lots of groups included young girls and boys, and it’s great to see the tribal traditions and rituals being passed on.

By the way, Papua New Guinea is about the size of California. It has about 7 million people living in 19 provinces. It is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world with about 850 distinct tribes and languages.

I think this tribe is from South Simbu Province, but let me know if you know they are from elsewhere.

Finally, here’s a short video clip of one of the many snake dances. I think the singing is coming from a nearby group because most of these guys aren’t moving their lips.

Goroka Show, snake dance

Snake dance in motion

Snake dancers, Goroka Show

Look at those muscles!


Leave a Comment
  1. Derrick / Oct 8 2014 12:52 am

    How do they get soot to be so shiny ?

    I have seen snake dances, some even with live snakes, I am never really sure if the snakes have had their venom removed or not, I saw snake charmers with cobras, but this has to be a first with a really long snake on their head


    • leggypeggy / Oct 8 2014 8:26 am

      I was told the shiny comes from pig fat, but these guys aren’t as shiny as some we saw.


  2. lmo58 / Oct 8 2014 6:49 am

    Very colourful indeed Peggy. Some of those dancers and their snakes look quite menacing. I know that’s illogical but perhaps it’s all that black with the red teeth. The dance was interesting too and it’s great to see young kids learning their cultural traditions. Once again, another really interesting post with great photos.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 8 2014 8:27 am

      Thanks Louise. Once I get a lot of different groups posted, you’ll really be able to see how diverse PNG is.


  3. / Oct 8 2014 8:23 am

    Excellent photos Peggy. The guy taking a smoke break is particularly good. ~James


  4. suchled / Oct 10 2014 11:00 am

    More concentration on focus and composition and less on muscle tone.–But really nicely done Peg.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 11 2014 8:14 am

      Hahahaha, muscle tone is unavoidable at the Goroka Show. Thank goodness.


  5. Lauren (English Wife, Indian Life) / Oct 10 2014 3:37 pm

    Fascinating!!! xx


  6. Sy S. / Oct 16 2014 10:34 am

    Goroka PNG Tribal Show and performances is very interesting and you have some great photos to show us! For the photo of the snake dancer lead person, did you ever find out what he was smoking? And when he is dancing, were does he store his “smokes”?
    Aside- What is a little annoying is seeing Coca-Cola signs all over the place, I would rather see the dances/tribal people in their own villages and forests… or the advertisements out of view.


    • leggypeggy / Oct 16 2014 9:48 pm

      Hi Sy, great to see you here. Good question about where he stores his ‘smokes’, which are just regular cigarettes. Every group has a couple of hangers-on who look after equipment, drinks and such.

      Agree with you completely about all the advertising signs. I was gobsmacked to see one group dressed as Coca-Cola bottles. Must post a pic.



  1. No skirting around the Goroka Show—it’s all upfront | Where to next?

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