Do You Remember

I was warned, before I left, that there would not be much to do in the evenings after the sun sets at about 6:30. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The evenings appear to be ‘story telling’ time! A range of different people come over for supper each night and stay to talk for hours. Last night the man that lives next door (whose name I have embarrassingly forgotten) was explaining about the History of PNG. Apparently the first English explorers to discover the country did not see any value in it: They saw it as being too mountainous and with too many natural hazards. The locals gathered at the shore, believing the white foreigners to be the ghosts of their ancestors but were fired at by canons.  It wasn’t until the 1880’s that the English claimed PNG as a colony. It was then Papua, with the Germans holding New Guinea in the north. During the Second World War the English took over New Guinea and gave the responsibility of the new PNG to Australia until the 1975 Independence Day. PNG is currently in a slow process of modernisation. Any remaining tribes had been found by government searches, sent out into the jungle to initiate a process of civilisation. However word of mouth passed down through the generations keeps the history alive.

The tribes kept very separate from each other, explaining the 800 or so different languages in PNG. They would gather together only for sing-sings or for battle. Battle for them was like sport, they would call for a battle when they were getting restless! Dressing up in their finest traditional dress, they would paint mud, charcoal and fruit on their faces so that they could not be recognised by enemies who may wish to avenge the death of a loved one (there was very much an eye for an eye policy). In the week or so leading up to a battle the men would go to a ‘men’s club’ to strategise and would not be allowed to visit their wives’ houses, or spend a night with their wives before the battle. It was strictly forbidden; they believed that if you spent a night with your wife you would be the first to be struck down by a fatal spear. There could, perhaps, be some logic behind this – keeping testosterone levels high could result in better fighters! The man telling me this history kept saying how the battles were ‘like rugby’; they would take place almost for amusement and each man would strive to be the best player on the field! It’s interesting to think that this is where sport originates from: a primitive desire to compete and fight with others.

A big local game that all of the area flocked to watch. Note the incredibly bumpy field and bamboo posts!