• Gideon Kakabin earned a reputation for championing the culture of PNG's Gunantuna people. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Cultural historian Gideon Kakabin was in Australia for an art residency.
NITV Staff Writer

21 Aug 2018 - 3:54 PM  UPDATED 21 Aug 2018 - 5:27 PM

Gideon Kakabin, a photographer and cultural historian who chronicled the independence struggle in Papua New Guinea, died on Monday in Canberra. He was 62 years old.

His death, at Canberra Hospital, was confirmed in a statement released by a family spokeswoman.

It said he died there after a short illness but did not specify the cause.

Mr Kakabin was in Australia to complete a one-month art residency at the Australian War Memorial.

His research at the memorial focused on paintings by official war artist Charles Bryant which depict the PNG township of Rabaul during WWI.

Australian War Memorial Director, Brendan Nelson, expressed his deepest sympathies.

“He was loved and respected by the Memorial’s staff who consider it as a privilege to have worked with him,” Dr Nelson said.

“His sudden death is both a deep shock and tragic loss.”

An Elder of Gunantuna people, he contributed to bringing a landmark exhibition of PNG art to Australia and shed new light on the the New Guinea campaign in WWII.

"We have lost an epic pillar of historical knowledge today,” PNG political commentator Deni ToKunai wrote in a Facebook post.

Mr Kakabin had recently worked with Australian songwriter David Bridie and PNG singer George Telek on an art project called A Bit na Ta.

The name means 'the source of the sea' in Tolai – the local language in PNG’s East New Britain province.

The concerts and album told a story about war and colonialism under Germany, Japan and Australia set against a heaving backdrop of volcanoes and earthquakes.

Mr Kakabin was described by Mr Bridie as a renaissance man with a great sense of humour and instrumental in sharing the culture and history of Papua New Guinea with the world.

“People were able to tap into his wealth of knowledge,” he told NITV News.

“He was an astonishing man.”

Mr Kakabin is survived by his wife, Judy, and his children Tipia and Miriam.

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