First you take your fire wood and arrange it in a star-like manner so that it will be a solid resting place for your pot. When it’s there in place, you line it with some banana leaves and then start filling it up with vegetables. The ones that need the most time to get properly cooked, usually the taro, you place on the bottom. Then you add the water, and maybe some coconut milk. On top comes fish or meat, before you place taro or banana leaves as a cover on top. Now you only have to make sure that the fire keeps going.
Today most of the cooking in the Tufi villages, as well as everywhere else in Papua New Guinea, is done in aluminum pots, but for certain occasions – for a feast, or a special visit – you bring out the clay pots. All around the country there have been century- or millennia-old trading systems, where tribes with access to the best clay locations have distributed their pots in exchange for other goods, sometimes over impressive distances. Around Tufi the treasured clay is found at Wanigela, in a small area a couple of miles from the Collingwood Bay shore line, and
here both the pot making and the trading is still very much alive.
While the Wanigela people bring their clay pots, the villagers from the Tufi fjords bring mats and dogs; the Maisin to the
south trade their tapa (bark) cloth, and the Cape Vogel tribes their shell work. For a big feast or ceremony, as the mourning meal at Ganjiga shown above, there will be a great number of clay pots lined up and looked after by the women, while the young men help out with shredding coconut and the elders sit and discuss clan matters.
My full series of pot making can be seen in the ‘Wanigela Clay Pot set’ set on Flickr : http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157626541992236/
The ‘bible’ on this topic, “The Traditional Pottery of Papua New Guinea” is written by Patricia May and Margaret Tuckson.