Beauty in Melanesia’s ‘ugly faces’

​There’s beauty in the ugly faces of Melanesia. And that’s what Lava Girl line sets out to find.

What Annette Sete means by “ugly faces” are the carvings and masks – a familiar print on most of her product line.

Being from East Sepik and married to East New Britain, masks are part of her identity.

Using more extract style in her prints, Lava Girl’s aim to highlight the beauty in this has been successful, making hers a high demand fashion line, nationally.

Something which started as a hobby like many others has turned out to be a full time business now.

Maku gifts was a homebased gift shop established three years ago. The following year, Lava girl was born – a clothes line for ladies leisure wear and with it the accessories/jewellery.

The fashion house now has a shop running in Kokopo and continues to supply growing number of resellers/retailers nationwide.

But it’s not just an art skill or a form of income generation…no! For Lava Girl, it’s the act of preserving the culture.

Sete speaks of her work to Loop Entertainment.

“I’m actually going back to learning things like how they colour using natural colours, how to make grass skirts, weaving…things that when I was growing up, just sort of remember how my grandmother did.

“I’m learning from aunties and I have a wide network of people doing handicraft with natural items. I look at women weaving, the difference on how they process the pandanus, or what other items they use…even down to seashells,” she said.

With the exception of the Highlands, Sete says the fashion house has hooked up with different groups in the country that are into handicraft.

She says part of the aim is to develop the whole handicraft market in PNG, which she believes is lacking at the moment.

“When you talk tourism, you talk accommodation and other things but not much focus on gifts, handicrafts…so this is what we’re sort of big on.”

Sete is for the first time bringing her line onto the Miss Pacific Islands Pageant (PNG) project runway.

Based on her personal research, she finds the concept being emphasised on this fashion platform similar to hers.

“We’ve already been tapping into this area…so we’ll see how things go,” she said.

Gloria Bauai