Mathias Kauage and his extended family are PNG’s most prolific and best known artists.  

He was born in the Gembog region of Chimbu Province in the Highlands of PNG in the early 1940s.  He was working as a cleaner at the University of PNG when he was inspired to start drawing after seeing the first show of drawings by Akis in 1969.  With support from Georgina Beier he began working on his own drawings before moving onto copper panels and finally into painting.  Over the next decade, his work incorporated grew to large scale acrylic on canvas containing many key motifs including mosquito’s helicopters, planes, flags and cars.  These can all be read as symbols of the huge societal changes that have been taking place for Papua New Guineans.  He painted many stories of his countries young history including the death of then Deputy Prime Minister and fellow Chimbu Iambaki Okuk and the Sandline affair.  In 1998 he was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to art.

With his success, his obligations also grew and Kauage encouraged his family to assist him keep up with the demand, filling in the backgrounds for some of his paintings.  His themes and life story have inspired many other artists from Chimbu who are currently supporting families through the sale of their art in Port Moresby.  While the work of each artist is distinguishable, it is clear the extraordinary influence Kauage has had on contemporary PNG art and his work continues to define aspects of PNG to the World.

Kauage died on 20 May 2003.  He exhibited in many countries including the U.K, Australia, Germany and of course PNG. His works are held in public and private collections all over the world, including Buckingham Palace.

Below is a selection of work from Mathias as well as his children, John and Andrew, who can be found in Port Moresby at the Holiday Inn, adopted son Chris and nephew Winston who is based in Madang at the Madang Resort.  See also pages for Mathias’ wife Elizabeth Kauage, adopted son Apa Hugo, pupil Simon Gende and fellow Chimbu Oscar Towa.

The Kauage Family