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***aCe*** 06-05-2005 01:50 PM

Caught Between Two Worlds
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The slow death of our cultures and traditions cut deep into a person's identity. Melissa Fairi takes you into the old way of life - and brings you back to present-day problems

SEVENTY-year-old Adam sits cross-legged beside a fire. In his lap lies a kundu drum carved out of special wood with a dried lizardskin covering one end of the wood. Adam taps lightly on the skin and hums one of his old-time favourite songs for the rhythm of the tap. Terry and John, both Adam's grandsons, stop by to see him. John finally gets bored and walks away.

"Terry, kam na yumi go, lusim of lapun long ol yet," John calls.
"Yumi go lukim ol mangi pilai rugby."
"Bai mi kam bihain," Terry replies.
"Mi laik stori wantaim Bubu Adam."
(Terry, leave the old man alone. Lets go and watch the guys play rugby," calls John. I'll come later I want to talk to Bubu Adam.")

This is just one example of how young people have changed since Papua New Guinea got her independence, 27 years ago.

Adam and men like him from his time took pride in their culture and traditions. Life was very different. In some parts of the country boys were raised separately from their mothers and sisters. In the Highlands and some other parts of New Guinea Islands boys went to live with their elders in the men’s house. For example, the Huli men lived apart form their wives and young children because they believed that contact with women impaired their health and lead to premature aging.

A traditionally attired Eastern Highlander....

***aCe*** 06-05-2005 01:57 PM

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Old initiation ceremonies

The boys from the Sandaun province also went to live in the “Haus Boy” when they reached a certain age. While there, they were taught skills of hunting, fishing, gardening, and also magic and rituals. These were also practiced in Gulf and in East New Britain.

Initiation was also an important ceremony in those days. The ceremony allowed people to recognize that the boy had reached his manhood. The purpose was to teach the youth to live a better life, respect his elders and the traditional values in order to have a good status in the society.

Each province had different initiation ceremonies, the male initiation was called Warkinim and the Tumbuan initiation was called Awarpakat.

In Tufi, Northern province, young Korafe men were not allowed to shave or look in the mirror in front of their uncles until their mother’s brothers had initiated them.

The young men of Sundaun were also not offered by young girls until their uncles and kanderes had carried out their initiation ceremonies.

In the North Solomons Province when a boy showed signs of maturity, village elders organized a ceremony where the boy was taken into the jungle to carry out several test that would prepare him for life.

This ritual involved eating special kinds of food. Sacred information of rules were passed to the boy during this ritual. This taught him to be a responsible person and to respect women and village elders.

The crocodile initiation ceremony in the East Sepik province....

***aCe*** 06-05-2005 02:05 PM

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Vanishing before our eyes

However all these are slowly vanishing. The dual influences of education and Christianity made inroads into the country. And now, Western influences, development and technology have also contributed to these changes. Only a few people still practice these ceremonies.

Interestingly, modern youths have invented their, own styles of initiation. In high schools and national high schools, groups require students to undergo several tests if a new member wants to join of to have a generation name passed onto him. This includes how many bottles of alcohol he can drink and having his chest punched according to the generation number.

The difference is that these so-called modern-day initiations only influence youths in a bad way.

In many ways, young people of today are fortunate to be raised in a society that has advanced with technology.

“I am proud to be growing up in such a society, but at the same time I have fear for today’s modern society,” says Cal, a 23-year old from East New Britain youth.

He said the young men of today are different from those in the past because back then, traditional and cultural practices were effective. Young men really respected their elders. However, today those traditions and cultures are fading away and the new influence of the modern society is invading fast. Now, the young men do not respect for their societies.

Young Tolai boys performing a traditional dance.....

***aCe*** 06-05-2005 02:13 PM

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Holding on fast

Some youths don’t want to lose touch with how things used to be. “With the introduction of technology and the growing developments in and around me, there is a need for me to find my origins and to enjoy the culture of my parents,” said a 19-year-old youth from mixed parentage of Milne Bay and Central province.

He said the young men of today only think for pleasure, such as women, sex, drugs, alcohol and take for granted the importance of their health and their culture.

John, a 24-year-old youth from the North Solomons Province. He said that growing up in a world of technology was exciting as it would help make life easier, rather then living in the village and using manpower for survival.
He said young men of today have created a different type of society where there is lack of respect and co-operation that existed in the past.

Young men no longer take advice from their leaders or clans. Instead, they do things in their own way, and this one way they can end up stealing or getting into trouble.

“One problem in the city is when they cannot further their education. There is a lot to learn about life from the elders back in the village.

However, young people have become ignorant with the mentality that the village is for primitives, and real life is in the city,” he said.
Parents should make an effort to send their sons back to the village to learn the traditional skills, he says.

Some modern men are even reviving yesterday’s ceremonies. “I am proud that I have taken in traditional ceremony. The ceremony has taught me to respect and obey the culture and traditions of being initiated into manhood. In addition, it has given me pride and dignity for my culture,” said Cal.

***aCe*** 06-05-2005 02:26 PM

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Goodbye to some traditions

However, not all traditions will be revived. Parents matchmaking a wife for their son without the son’s knowledge was a common practice in the past, and the son was not to refuse the woman he had been appointed to marry. The woman was chosen according to her character and involvement in the community.

In the tradition of the Ngaing people of Rai Coast in Madang, for example, a man must marry a true cousin that is the daughter of a mother’s brother who should be the husband of the father’s sister. Like wise, his male cross cousins must marry their true cousins.

However, these ways no longer exist today because young men prefer to choose whom they want to spend the rest of their lives with.

Traditions and cultures are slowly fading before our eyes. Some youths and almost all adults and elders believe that some of those traditional practices carried out in the past in raising young men should be preserved.

This is because they believe that those traditional values taught young men to respect their society, family and elders.

***aCe*** 06-05-2005 02:30 PM

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New Mentality

A poignant view comes from an old man from Tangu in the Bogia District of Madang.

He said that in his time, young men had very good relationships with each other. They helped each other in building houses, going fishing and hunting.

“The young men of today have a totally different life style. They do things their way. They want to be independent and make their own decisions. They have this common mentality ‘survival of the fittest’, which is very bad. They only help each other when they want to drink alcohol, smoke and get involved in criminal activities,”

However, people in his village still teach their children traditional customs and beliefs, he said.

“Taim mol stap long taun, em wok blong ol tisa long skulim ol, na taim bilong malolo na ol I kam long peles em wok bilong mipela ol lapun long lainim ol long pasin bilong peles,” he explained.

“Pasin bilong peles save lainim ol man long gutpela sindaun blong ol na ol narapela.”

“”When they go to town, they are taught by teachers about the modern world, but when they return to the village it is the old people like me that teach them the traditional way of life.”)

Kundi Simba is from East Sepik province. He works as a driver. “Bipo ol papa bilong mipela I save skulim mipela long kamap gutpela man bihain,” he said.

He recalled the days when his father would teach him canoe making, building houses and doing craft work such as carving out animals and people from trees.

The boys learnt skills from their fathers.

“Nau kainkain samting bilong ol wait man I paulim tingting bilong ol yangpela man,” he said.

“Ol mangi I lainim pasin bilong bagarapim man long television, redio na megezin,” he said.

(“Young men are influenced by television, radio and magazines. They learn how to hurt people through these things.”)

He said development must happen, but we must keep the old ways alive in our hearts.


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