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Old 19-09-2003, 08:07 AM
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Jiwaka group of Western Highlands are on a cultural mission to promote peace !

By Esther Haro

“Kalsa bilong mipela ol Jiwaka em i go dip na igat bikpela minin.” The culture of the Jiwaka people goes deep and is full of meaning, Kopri Seple tells me while pointing to one of the dancers dressed in full traditional attire.

He points to each of the traditional items in turn and in pidgin describes them to me.

“This one here is a Regiana bird of Paradise, this one one here is the Lisa bird of paradise and these ones are parrots.” He describes for me the composition of one of the colourful headdresses.

The headdresses like the other attire are beautifully and artistically made. The black long and smooth tail feathers of the bird of paradise stick up, forming a black crown. Interspersed between the black feathers are the exquisite rainbow colours of the parrots.

“Dispela bird of paradise em K50 long wanpela na dispela perot em olsem K30-K40,” he says in pidgin. This bird of paradise costs K50 and this parrot costs around K30 – K40.

When I asked how much it cost for the little red feathers going neatly around the headdress, Mr Seple replies that it costs around K200 to have a full set.

After calling out the names of the rest of the costumes and giving the amount of each one, he informs me that it costs around K2000 to have one fully dressed dancer.

“Olsem na pastaim mi tokim yu ya, kalsa blong mipela em i go dip, na i gat minin. “Olsem na mipela ino save mekim nating nating. Mipela save dres ap long taim olsem Krismas na ol kalserel so na arapela ol bikpela selebresen,” Mr Seple says. That explains what he meant when he said that his culture goes deep and has meaning.

“We don’t dress up for nothing. We only dress up on occasions like Christmas and Cultural Shows and other important occasions."

The Jiwaka speaking group is one of the two main cultural groups in the Western Highlands province.

The other group is the Melpa speaking group of people.

The Waghi River divides the Melpas in the north from the Jiwaka in the south.

And it is from the Jiwaka area that a total of five different tribes, formally enemy tribes, came together in 1994 and formed the Noendi group of whom Mr Seple, an elder, is the leader.

The aim of the group is to promote culture and as such they are registered under the National Cultural Commission.

They were invited to participate in the 2003 Madang Mabarosa festival from the 13th –16th of September and they travelled all the way from the Western Highlands.

“Noendi long tokples blong mipela i min olsem kam bung wantaim,” Mr Seple defines the name of the group. Noendi in our tokples means to come together.

The tribes that make up Noendi include Konumbka, Kondika, Ngeneke, Berepka and Kukika.

David Gera a final year bachelor of PNG Studies student at Divine Word pose with his relatives who are members of the Noendi cultural group of Jiwaka.

Photographs: Courtesy - Patrick Matbob - teacher of journalism at DWU.
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Old 19-09-2003, 08:09 AM
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“Mipela laikim ol bikman husat i save lidim ol traib long pait egensim arapela traib long luksave long grup bilong mipela long hau mipela i bung wantaim na tru long dispela grup mipela laikim ol long luksave olsem mipela les long traibal pait,” Mr Seple informs me. We want the leaders of each tribe who usually lead the people into tribal fights to see how we have come together to form this group and it is through this group that we don’t want any more tribal fights.

Mr Seple said tribal fights often made people including tourists fearful of visiting the province.

He said because of this, their culture continues to lie hidden and misconceptions are construed about the people and the province.
Some of the members of the group travelled to Honiara in 1998 and this year when they were invited, they saw this as an opportunity to showcase their culture in Madang.

Mr Seple said they wanted to stay united, stop tribal fighting, promote themselves more and bring more tourists and visitors into their province. The Noendi group is doing their part to bring this about.
Standing close to them, I begin to closely inspect their traditional attire.

It is made up of different types of birds of paradise, parrots, pig tusks, cuscus fur, tree kangaroo fur, bamboo, orchids, bilum, cassowary feathers and leaves. These can be found in abundance in their province.
Another astounding feature of their costumes is the kina shells and other smaller seashells that stand out from the rest of their Highlands traditional make over.

When I point this out, Mr Seple tells me that they received the shells through the barter system in the traditional times.

“Mipela i save givim ol stone blong mekim eks long ol lain nambis na ol i save givim mipela sol na mekim kaikai i orait,” he explains. We usually gave them coastal stones to make their axes and in return they gave us salt to make our food taste good.

Of all the attire, the bird of paradise is the most expensive to purchase.
Michael Peni, one of the dancers, points to the black bird of paradise and tells me it is found in thick bushes at the top of the mountain. To get one, the villagers stay in the bush for two to three weeks studying the birds before they kill one with a bow and arrow.

The bird is then taken to the house where the meat is removed and eaten while the whole body is left intact from head to the tail. The bird is dried out in the sun and then a bamboo is thrust through the bird.

In a similar fashion this is done to the other birds including the parrots.
Mr Peni points to the headdress worn by a woman dancer and says that the headdress is usually worn on “taim blong kilim pik” (when a pig is killed).

After being in the ‘haus tambaran’ a group of select people emerge. The headdress is worn by a hard working woman who is recognised for how many pigs she has raised and the number of food gardens she has produced.

Pointing to the clothes I wear, Mr Seple says these are clothes that we received from the colonisers.

“Planti ol yangpela manmeri gat nogat intres long kalsa bilong ol na kalsa i wok long pinis.

“Mipela laikim ol yangpela long karim kalsa bilong ol na noken lus tingting long kalsa,” he says. Lots of young people today have no interest in their culture and it is dying out. We want the young people today to preserve their culture and not to let it fade away.

The tribes that form Noendi are located close to Minj High School and sometimes they dress up their children in traditional clothes before sending them to school.

“Em gutpela long lainim ol taim ol liklik,” Mr Seple adds. It is good to teach them when they are young.

Ends…//

1. One of the Noendi group member, Michael Peni shows off the Bird of Paradie feathers and headdress.
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