Posts Tagged With: Spear Point

Warfare, Cannibalism and Migration

Okeina warriors at a peaceful ‘singsing’ at Tufi, early 1900s.

Okeina warriors at a peaceful ‘singsing’ at Tufi, early 1900s.

“One night around 1850 the Korafe clans who were living by Lake Moghana in the hills behind Gobe woke up to the sound of warriors shouting and hollering, and to the death cries of their tribesmen. The Okeina from the coast had come up for revenge; they had sneaked up in the darkest hours and had suddenly charged the sleeping villagers. In the panic and commotion of the attack, warriors from other tribes could be seen as well – the Okeina had brought in re-enforcements to be sure of a successful mission against the strong Korafe. Axes were swung and spears were thrown in the darkness, and soon the whole village was filled with the desperate cries of men, women and children, mixed with the thuds and slashes of weapons and shelters breaking.”

This is how the chapter of the big Korafe migration starts in my Beautiful Tufi book. It think my idea of writing this book started to take shape when I realized that Tufi has a very dramatic history. Here were not only a beautiful place with wonderful people, but here were also stories from World War II, from the devastating cyclone that hit the area in 1972, and then from the pre-colonial days when tribal warfare, cannibalism and migration were part of what people expected to see in their lifetime.

There are several tribes (or groups) around Tufi, speaking different languages, and they are again divided into a great number of clans. Each clan carries the stories of their past, so the big story of the great migration is a conglomerate of stories from all clans. It’s a story of how bigger and stronger groups have expanded into the area, pushing others against each other, and sometimes even killing them off completely. Some were forced to move, sometimes for forever and sometimes for a later return.

Today the spears are only prepared for hunting.

Today the spears are only prepared for hunting.

The Korafe were a big group with many clans that set out across the pass between the Keroroa and Yamewara mountains (Mt Victory and Mt Trafalgar in English) and then lived for some years here and for some years there, finally finding their way to the Tufi fjords where they still are today. Around Tufi the found another people, lower in numbers and weaker, and these they soon dominated, meaning marrying their women and killing their men. It’s part of history now.

The Migration chapter continues:

“The men who managed to reach for their knives and clubs fought back, but the surprise tactic had its intended effect and many were killed or wounded before the hostile visitors returned down to the coast. Moghana was now a village of devastation, death and despair, and the eerie wailing from those who had lost their dear ones kept sounding through the long hours of the night. This was truly a dark night for the Korafe, in every respect. (…) When the chiefs sat down to discuss the situation they felt the pressure had become unbearable, and once again they decided to gather all the clans and move on.”

Here, behind Spear Point, the fighting was fierce in the time of the tribal wars.

Here, behind Spear Point, the fighting was fierce in the time of the tribal wars.

Read more about Beautiful Tufi here!

Categories: Book, PNG, PNG history, Tufi | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

First Contact at Spear Islets

                                                                                     Royal Anthropological Institute                           

                   The arrival of the gigantic ‘devils canoe’ at the northern tip of the Tufi fjords, 1874

In long, slender canoes, dangerous looking warriors came paddling out towards the ’Basilisk’. They were many, but they were of course totally bewildered be the enormous monster of a vessel that towered before them. The tall masts; smoke coming out of its gut; the huge wheel moving slowly by the ship’s side pushing it forward; and then the people aboard – white skinned, and with clothes and ornaments that must have come from another world.

The ship had stopped at the small islands – hardly more than grassy rocks – by the end of the long ridge pointing out towards the open sea. It would stay the night at this anchorage. The men in the canoes, some sitting and some standing on the platforms, were naked except for some shell and feather ornaments. Their hair was tied in long ringlets, like a bundle of firm braids hanging over their shoulders. Their bodies and faces were painted black.

They looked fierce, but this was nothing compared to what the ship looked like to them. The sailors aboard waved with objects for trading – axes, iron hoop and cloths – and a few of the canoes dared to come a bit closer. Then a sudden movement by one of the sailors had them paddle off again – fast, driven by the suspense of this surreal encounter.

The captain and some of his men went ashore to try to make contact in the village they had spotted, but they found the place deserted. All the villagers had taken to the bush, and they had even emptied their houses for many of their belongings. The waitmen looked around in the well-kept houses, with  neat                               State Library of New South Wales fireplaces in the middle, and outside and around they saw pretty gardens.

Back on the ship they were told that a couple of canoes had returned, and this time the men had come along-side the ship. Pieces of cloth had been traded with vegetables and shells. By the point an officer who attempted to map their exact position had a spear thrown at him. They therefore named the place Spear Islets.

The captain’s name was John Moresby, and he was one of the most honorable explorers who have travelled the seas. All certainly weren’t. With this journey he mapped the last unexplored coastline in the entire world – a true feat for the history books. I will return to him and this extraordinary journey in a later posting.

Next morning, from their hiding places in the bush, the villagers saw new smoke come out of Basilisk’s chimney, slowly shoveling the ship into motion. It headed out across the bay aiming for the shores of the Kaiva people further north. After some hours it was lost out of sight and it would take more than fifteen years before the next ship manned by waitmen would pass Spear Islets.

                                                                                 Royal Anthropological Institute

Did this really happen, they asked themselves, while looking towards the horizon. They were holding the red fabric in their hands, but still finding it almost impossible to believe.

Some facts: Natural land alterations have made the islets land-fast since long, so now this place is called Spear Point. The people living around the point today belong to both Arifama, Mokoroa and Miniafia clans, but it’s not clear who the warriors that met the Basilisk were. They could have been Mokoroa, Okeina or even belonging to the now lost Foyogha tribe. The little beach on the point’s eastern side is still a favored place for a break for passing canoes and dinghies.


        The lion profile of Spear Point’s tip

Do you have another first-contact story form New Guinea or the South Pacific? Please post or link!

Many thanks to the Royal Anthropological Institute, London, and to the State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, for letting me use the historic photos.

– RAI 20709. Canoes assembled for a celebration at Cape Nelson, with the government boat the “Merrie England” in the background.                    Francis R. Barton, c.1900 © RAI  (detail)

– SLNSW; ON3Box22_272-2; Mokoroa men at Tufi Station

RAI 20583. Kaili-kaili natives. Francis R. Barton, c. 1900 © RAI

Reference: John Moresby, New Guinea and Polynesia, London 1876

Categories: PNG history, Tufi | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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