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SIL's dedication to language development past and present
(MARCH 2006) Papua New Guinea (PNG) issued six stamps for 2006 that commemorate SIL’s service in that country. Each stamp portrays a different aspect of SIL’s contribution over the past 50 years.
With over 800 distinct languages, Papua New Guinea is regarded as one of the most linguistically complex countries in the world. SIL was invited in 1956 to serve the people of PNG through language development. Although the core of SIL’s service focuses on language development, linguistics, literacy and translation, there are other areas of expertise in which they are currently involved, including non-print media and aviation. The stamps in this collection represent only a segment of SIL’s commitment to serving the people of PNG.
About the Stamps
There is untold value in providing books for people to read. When individuals can read, many doors are opened through the printed word. This is one of the key reasons SIL is so involved in literacy. SIL puts great emphasis on educating people to read in their own language because the words read can have a profound effect upon lives.
The Post Office, located in Ukarumpa which is SIL’s main center, is an integral part of the community. Its role is vital to the ongoing work of linguistics, literacy and translation. By moving hundreds of thousands of letters and packages each year, the PNG Postal Service enables SIL to continue its many services among the people of PNG.
Canadian Dr. Jim Dean served as the first director of the SIL Papua New Guinea Branch. Located in the Aiyura Valley of the Eastern Highlands, his house, built of local materials with a thatched roof, also served as SIL’s first office.
What better way to teach young and old alike than in one’s own language? In PNG a person’s mother tongue is known as his or her tokples or the “talk of the place.” In the early 1990’s, the government passed a law giving every individual the right to education in his or her own heart language during the early grades. SIL pioneered the movement of Tokples Preschools. Spreading throughout the country, these schools have had a tremendous impact on the education of rural children.
“Service To All”—one of the deeply held SIL values—led to the beginning of an aviation program in PNG. The country’s varied and difficult terrain made SIL realize that air transportation was needed for rural workers. Today SIL Aviation provides transport to assist in literacy and translation projects. It also serves PNG by carrying mail, moving coffee and other goods from remote airstrips, helping with community development projects and assisting in relief efforts. A heart for service has drawn aviation staff from countries around the world including Papua New Guinea.
For 50 years SIL has dedicated its time, resources and manpower to developing the whole person and the whole community. Community development takes on many faces. Helping introduce and improve cash crops, providing fresh water, and teaching sewing skills to women are a few of the many ways SIL has brought practical methods of community development into hundreds of villages.
About the Artist: Michael Harrar
Michael Harrar, an SIL artist in Papua New Guinea (PNG), received a request in 2004 from the Papua New Guinea Post for him to create a new series of six stamps to depict several areas of SIL’s expertise in their country. Their target date for release was January 2006—to coincide with the 50th year anniversary of SIL’s service in PNG.
Mr. Harrar completed the project in six months, which included the six original paintings, the layout design of each stamp, the design of the First Day Cover and cancellation stamp, as well as a stamp pack in which the commemorative stamps were issued to collectors. The colorful paintings feature ethnic designs taken from traditional Papua New Guinean tapa (bark) cloth, intricate string bag artwork and basket weavings.
Mr. Harrar received a degree in commercial art from the Hussian School of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States. He has served with SIL for 25 years doing artwork in Colombia, Senegal and Papua New Guinea.
During his years in PNG, Harrar provided artwork for vernacular literacy materials and other SIL publications. He also conducted local community artist workshops and provided one-on-one training to Papua New Guineans to produce their own artwork to illustrate their own literacy materials.