Posts Tagged With: Oro

Tumari Flash Flood

Thirteen houses washed away

Thirteen houses washed away

DSC_8966”Now we can’t live on the beach anymore.” Members of the Kanare family are looking at the wide opening in the middle of the beach. The water is calm now, but on January 9th a flashflood coming down the valley broke through the beach from behind and thirteen families lost their houses, their homes.

It had rained heavily for a couple of days at Tumari, and with a record-high king tide and the heavy breakers hitting hard the beach started crumbling and giving way all along the bay. At the same time the river came roaring down from the back and more and more water gathered in the lagoon behind the beach. In the afternoon of the 9th the rain got even more intense and the water level behind their houses rose dangerously – they realized the beach would be flooded. The women and children got in to the dinghies that were around, the men tying them to the coconut palms.

At 9pm hell broke loose. The water from the back was suddenly flushing over the beach in all its length, under their houses, and chewing away the sand where it met with the breakers. At the northern end the water pushed through, braking three houses, washing them out to the sea. Oswald, the ward counselor, and his family were the first to see their house go. Just a few minutes later came the big opening in the middle of the beach; an avalanche of water taking the sand, eight houses, and all the belongings of the Kenare families into the ocean. Just like that – all gone!

Oswald saw his house being crushed to pieces

Oswald saw his house being crushed to pieces

A couple of hours after midnight the water started to go down, but before that they had called to friends and government representatives in Popondetta, the provincial capital, to let people know, and from there the news was put on Facebook right away. Some things have changed around Tufi.

When I visited Tumari in March the Red Cross arrived with food supplies. Most of the Tumari gardens had been completely demolished – only the sago and coconut palms could still give them food. Help was late, despite the calls sent out right away. It took two full weeks before the first aid shipment arrived (and this was by a donation from the Kokoda Tracking Foundation – cheers to them!). I witnessed a well organized handing out of supplies – rice, cooking oil, etc – to all families, and John, the Red Cross team leader, informed them that they would return shortly to make a long term assessment of their needs.

The Red Cross organised relief hand-outs very well

The Red Cross organised relief hand-outs very well

The community leaders had also come together to solve the housing situation, and land was now being cleared up on higher ground behind the school. There will be 22 houses – everyone on the beach will be moving up.

“We grew up here on the beach, and now we have to move. It’s going to be a big change. We are thankful, though, for all the help we’ve got from our families,” says Lucien Kanare. “You know, these are not even our own clothes.”

“We knew we would have to move one day,” continues his brother Leo, “because the beach has always been moving. But no one could have guessed that it would happen this way. So quickly, so dramatic, and so disastrous.  We have seen the tides come higher and higher in the last years, and the elders say it’s never been this high before. We know it must be because of the climate changes, and so is the terrible rainfall. We are climate refugees right now, but luckily we have our relatives, and soon we will move up behind the school.“

                 Before and after:

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9781468586145_COVER.inddIn my book, Beautiful Tufi, I wrote about how the Tumari people were responding to the higher tides, but now they were hit from behind instead.  Is that how climate change is going to hit us all one day: by surprise – even from behind!

Half a year has passed since I visited Tumari, and I know that several families have moved up to their new homes now. The Tumari people are strong and they will stay on their feet, but their beautiful village on the beach is gone forever.

 The cover photo is from Tumari – it’s one of the houses that are still standing

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The Tufi Tattoos

Ramona at Kasiawa

Ramona at Kasiawa

When a Tufi girl is ready for marriage she might, for some weeks, enter the hibernating process of getting a facial tattoo. The tattooing is an old traditional practice that has faded away and disappeared in most communities, but there are some areas where the tradition lives on.

Ethel is proud of her tattoo

Ethel is proud of her tattoo

The girl stays in seclusion during the time of the application, which is made by a qualified tattooist – sometimes a relative; always a woman. First the pattern is drawn in black, and when the girls’ parents have expressed their appreciation the tattooist starts the actual process. Dulcie at Kafuaruru village and Levinia at Angorogho, two of the still active tattooists, use a modern needle instead of the bush needle that was tapped by a stick, which was the old way. The dyes today are also mixed with modern ingredients that give a stronger and more lasting colour. This way the tattoo has to be worked over only twice, instead of three or four times which was the rule before.Ethel from Kuruwe says: “Mine was made by a lady from Sefoa. It was my parents that decided, but they listened to me too, of course. Nowadays the girls decide much themselves, but only a few get them. My auntie from Angorogho made one last year on a girl from Mafuia – that’s the neighbour village.”

A hundred years ago tattooing was common all over Papua New Guinea. Most places it was only for the women. The method was basically the same everywhere, but the patterns and what areas would be marked varied between the different areas. Some had their whole bodies tattooed, starting with a section at a young age, then adding some every year, and the final needle applied around puberty. At Tufi it was the face and sometimes the neck, and some would – only for the husbands to view – have their thighs tattooed as well.

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You’ll find some more about the Tufi tattoos in my book Beautiful Tufi, and there’s a set of photos on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29122604@N05/sets/72157622661762090/

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The Spectacular Head dresses

Dancing at Kwafurina

Dancing at Kwafurina

When the steady rhythm of the kundu drums sound and the dancers move around in lines and circles, finding the right steps to the songs, one can’t help being captured by their amazing head dresses. The expressively colourful feather arrangements light up the dancing ground; the cassowary plumes down the back sway to the beat; rooster feathers wave from the tops. It’s an explosion of colour and movement.

Much of the old style of the headdresses has been kept through the years but some changed have been introduced. New Guineans have never been afraid of picking up new ideas and inspiration from others and the decorations are also, to a large degree, individual expressions.

Roy chooses between a series of beautiful pieces

When Roy makes his head dress ready for a dance he brings out his little suitcase where he keeps his feathers carefully and neatly stacked. They are all strung up in rows of similar feathers – some are very old. He then finds his helmet-shaped frame, and start tying one row of feathers in front of the other. Maybe he will arrange it just like he did last time or maybe he will try a new combination – he’s got a lot to choose between.

Attaching to the frame

Attaching to the frame

This one wears Roy's signature

This one wears Roy’s signature

Roy has a liking for the blue and red feathers from the female Eclectus parrot, and he combines them with others from lories, lorikeets, kites, and the white cockatoo ones that have been cut to zig-zags. Then come the orange plumes of the Bird of Paradise, the big dusk of cassowary feathers in the back, and finally – since he belongs to a chieftain clan – the black rooster feathers. While some of his brothers stick to the more traditional styles, Roy always looks for an interesting new and attractive combination – he knows that it will be noticed.

A classical example from Kabuni

A classical example from Kabuni

This type of head dress is common, with local alterations, in most of Oro Province, and also down the coast to the area around Rabaraba, and they won’t disappear. Many of their songs and dances are important parts of the clans’ and families’ oral tradition, and for a dance only the traditional dress is appropriate. That means tapa cloth, shells and feathers, and they are worn with pride.

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Colourful Collingwood Bay

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Just south of Tufi is Collingwood Bay. It’s a wide, beach-lined bay with a mix of tribes and languages, and with a history intertwined with their northern neighbours. To find out about a mining project in the test drilling stage and a logging project of doubtful legality, I made my way down there, but I was also in for a wonderful and memorable visit. It materialised in an article for AirNiugini’s Paradise magazine. Here are some lines from the article, and further down you’ll find a link to the full article.

DSC_7910After passing the last houses, the banks of the Vayova River had come a little bit closer to our gently moving canoe, and soon coconut fronds and tall forest trees were forming a ceiling over our heads. The fiery, bright blossoms of the New Guinea Creepers lit up the greenery like strings of Chinese lanterns in orange and red, some places hanging straight down, while others drew beautifully curved arabesques above us, almost like circles. What a fabulous and colourful way to mark the start of our little expedition.

Joe and Moses were my companions and we were going up to have a look at the lake just north of the two hills behind the Uiaku and Ganjiga villages. For more than a hundred years this lake was only visited on special occasions – there is a sad story behind this – but now the young men go up there fishing, and they have decided it should be alright for a stranger and waitman to visit as well. After the short canoe ride I was looking forward to a long, nice walk through the forest.

– – –

DSC_7879One can’t visit the Maisin people without purchasing a prime piece of tapa cloth, and Betty is one of the experts. Tapa has been made for centuries along the northern coast of PNG and the Maisin have a well founded reputation for making the best. Betty had one that was almost finished, and I could tell it was going to be a great one, with the traditional parting into four similar sections.

It was going to be a girl’s or woman’s tapa, which they wear as a skirt when they put on their traditional costumes, so it was much bigger than the loin cloth variety that are for the men. The black contours were already in place and showed a beautiful, decorative pattern with iconic ocean waves on the top and bottom.

When I came back later that day Betty had finished making the red dye, the dun, and was starting to add it to the tapa with a pandanus brush. Earlier in the day she had collected the inner bark from a saman tree and leaves from the dun tree, which were then heated in a pot over the fire. When the consistency and the deep, blood-red hue was achieved it was ready for application.

The tapa fibers also come from the inner bark of a tree, the mulberry, and after being peeled off with the greatest care it is beaten on a wooden log with a mallet that looks like a small cricket bat. The fibers loosen and the bark extends. After one or two hours of beating, the cloth has got the right size and it is then hung to dry in the shade. Betty knows all the secrets of how to get a strong and beautiful tapa, and for her, as for all other Maisin, the keeping of this tradition has become an important part of her identity and it also generates some income for her family and her community. She is proud of her work.

Full Collingwood Bay article :

41-45 Paradise Vol. 1, 2012

 

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Coming soon !!

 

The ultimate presentation about Papua New Guinean life

 is just around the corner!

 

Tufi is both mountain and sea, both rainforest and beaches – it’s

PNG in a nutshell. I spent six months finding out about what life

is like around the wonderful Tufi shores and collecting stories of

both the past and the present.

Yes, the future too.

 

 

So her you can read about

The Fascinating People

The Beautiful Scenery

The Dramatic History

                                                                                  Photo by Frank Hurley, 1921, Australian Museum (v4589)

It’s a story about dealing with the past, while looking to the future; about being small in a big world, yet proud.

I’ll keep you updated about the publishing process…..

Mr. Jan

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