It's A Jungle Out There
Mark McMenamin -- Interior Design, 7/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
Right before Vicente Wolf flew to Papua New Guinea's capital, Port Moresby, a friend told him, "That's the world's most dangerous city outside a war zone." Warier types would have rebooked. But the Interior Design Hall of Fame member just packed more mosquito repellent. "I'm a coward in an adventuresome envelope," he says. "Always apprehensive—but willing to take a chance."
After his last taste of Western-style civilization, an oceanfront room at the Rapopo Plantation Resort in the town of Rabaul, his travel journal reads like a National Geographic series. He joined tribal snake-handlers for a reptilian feast. While canoeing, he paused while the boatmen killed and gutted a wild pig. He watched as Huli Wigmen festooned themselves with feathers. And he accompanied villagers on an outing that began with a ritualistic dance of the crocodiles, followed by a hunt for the real thing.
Even in the jungle, Wolf could not escape his inner designer. "I'm amazed by all the shades of green I see," he wrote in his journal. "A tapestry of patterns and species of trees. . .magnificent butterflies in extraordinary colors." Nor did he neglect his inner businessman. He visited dozens of markets and artisans to buy artifacts for his VW Home showroom, which shares a floor with Vicente Wolf Associates in New York. Among the spoils were 28 carved bracelets made from rubber gaskets, proving that re purposing knows no cultural boundary.
Despite all the visual stimuli, Wolf was even more fascinated by topics discussed at a town meeting: Middle Eastern affairs, the September 11 attacks, and even President George W. Bush. "There's more concern shown there about the world than in most American households," Wolf says. "One wonders who is truly primitive."
Vicente Wolf's Top 5 in Papua New Guinea
Paddling down the Sepik River.
Walking naked through the jungle.
Shopping for wood carvings in Port Moresby.
Searching for birds of paradise and finding 10-inch moths.