BY PETER KEPA
IT IS A MISFORTUNE that I and my folk do not have any written records of our forefathers’ life stories. It is good luck and to our advantage that we do have a few stories that were told to us.
The following story was told by my father’s generation of menfolk in the haus man as we were children being reared by them. They told us some of these stories to lull us to sleep and sometimes to pass on noble truths.
And so when I recall this story and record it on paper, I am putting a few minutes aside to think about my fathers, their struggles and their pains in keeping their generations going and through which I came to be a loving member of their tribal circle.
The tale I am about to unfold is a story which I have repeated many times to find out the certain truths in it and to anticipate an always positive answer to my problems.
My wife and my children believe in the practice and whenever I go to perform that act, they do know that the answer will be forthcoming sooner than they expect.
So I would like to share this experience with the general public reading Papua New Guinean literature. And I do know that some of the fellow sons and daughters of the same common ancestor will agree and acknowledge the truth contained in the story – which is to do with the custom of making the rain fall.
I belong to a tribe known as the Bari that lives 40 kilometres in a south-west direction from Kundiawa town, near a Catholic mission station called Nera Gaima, situated right on the borders of the Gumine, Kerowagi and Kundiawa Gembogl Districts.
My clan is Numaikane Kulamegauma and we belong to the tail of the very last range of the Kerowagi District. I am therefore, a Bari Numaikane Kulamegauma clansman.
The entire population of my clan is roughly about 1,000 men, women and children. It is their story that I am about to unfold. We, the whole Bari, are not a big tribe but just a drop of water in the bucket among the multiple other tribes that make up the many Simbu tribes.
However, I am happy to be a Bari man and I am going to tell you a Bari tale which is of interest to the Bari ear. The surrounding tribesmen identify us as ‘Bari Nilnem’. Nilnem means ‘from the water’. And so here goes the story.
About two and a half to three thousand years ago, or even much earlier than that, the Bari Gena tribes used to live side by side and were on good terms up along the hillsides of the upper Simbu Gorges in the Mandime/Ombondo area.
One troublesome day, a dog belonging to a Gena man was killed by a Bari man. And the corpse of the dog was covered up with rubbish and left at the base of a sugar-cane in one of the sugar-cane gardens of a Bari man.
When the owner of the dog searched for it and asked if any one might have seen it, there was denial everywhere with people uttering that no one had seen the dog.
A few days later the owner discovered his dead dog under the sugar-cane where it was buried. The Gena man was provoked and his emotions built into anger and so arguments and tribal warfare resulted.
It looked as if the Gena Tribesmen had pre-planned that war and so every skill in warfare fell to their advantage and they drove the Bari Tribe away from the locality around Mandime and Kupau, Ur Par and Koglai.
The Bari fought bravely against the Gena but they were outnumbered and had been caught by surprise with their weapons not handy. They were forced away from their residence and headed downstream following the Simbu River.
They came to the junction of the Simbu River with a much larger river, the Wahgi, and crossed it to the other bank. Among the Bari warriors was a young and energetic man whose name was Warmil.
Warmil was a skilful and brave fighter and defended the weak travellers and energetic travellers alike. He had no brothers, but tradition says that his father was still alive. And so he was a lone fighter, but a brave and clean fighter in the tactics of warfare. And he stood alone alongside the rest of the Bari tribesmen. The fresh and new locations settled by the Bari were Mirane, Kombuk and Kel on the other side of the Wahgi River.
At that time Warmil, the lone fighter, got married to a woman from the Numai tribe who now live in the Sina Sina area. That Numai woman became pregnant and was expecting her baby but through some unforeseen circumstances the baby did not arrive on the expected day and it was a prolonged birth.
One painful day, the pregnant Numai woman struggled to a nearby creek to wash to ease the bite of her labour pains. While she was washing in the creek, the baby was unexpectedly born and was swimming in the pool when the mother skilfully and lovingly brought him out of the water and nursed him to good health.
Warmil saw and he was glad for he had his first born and it was a son. He named him Kulame after the white cockatoo, for that bird was common and associated with wealth at that time. And so the first born son of Warmil from the Numai woman was called Kulame.
Some four to five years later, the Numai woman conceived again and bore another son who was called Kawak. In the local vernacular, Kawak, means ‘an error’ or ‘lacking’ or ‘missing’.
The woman was referring to her tribesmen and women and her husband’s folks that were not around to see to the birth and upbringing of the young one. And so, Kawak was the rightful name given to the second born of Warmil after Kulame.
As the children were being reared, it was the father’s duty to provide protein from birds and animals so he would hunt as well as toiling away in the gardens so the mother of the children could plant her crops.
One day while hunting possums Warmil came close to the Wahgi River where the animals would be plentiful, seeking safety and cover in the rocks and the caves and the levees and cliffs.
While hunting he came to a very giant of a tree known as the Ul tree. It was so huge that it would take six or seven grown up men to join hands to measure its circumference. A tree of that size would be a tower in the tropical forest and it would have huge buttresses. Warmil noticed that around the base of the Ul tree there were marks and signs of creatures and animals eating the tree’s fruits.
Warmil made a plan to come to that tree in the evening to investigate possible possum kills. He went home early that day and he prepared his best hunting weapons to use that evening.
He made sure to stay away from the smell of the fire and the smell of his house and the scent of other humans and moved into the lonely forest and wandered until it was nearly dusk and the blanket of darkness was beginning to descend from the Swai Waune Tops and the Vi Kauma tops and the Goiye Waiye Ranges.
Warmil made a slow but determined move towards the giant Ul tree. He took shelter between the giant buttresses of the tree and waited motionlessly. It wasn’t long after his waiting that he heard the sounds he had wanted to hear.
He heard the rustlings of leaves and the breaking of the dead twigs on the floor of the forest which indicated the advance of animals. In the dim light of the moon on the forest floor, Warmil saw some figures advancing towards the Ul tree and climbing to the tree tops to pick and eat its fruit.
To Warmil’s amazement the members of the party were not animals as he had anticipated, they were human-like creatures with human forms and figures.
Warmil observed many ugly and normal human-like men, women and children climbing up that Ul tree. And at the very rear of the line was a strong but very beautiful and energetic young maid whose skin colour and hair style resembled that of a Chinese woman or a Caucasoid woman.
Warmil gathered all his nerve and quickly dashed for her, grabbed her and carried her on his shoulders and ran as fast as his legs would allow. All the while he was expecting the other members to attack him and so he was alert as he hurried onwards towards safety.
Meanwhile upon his shoulders, the wild woman from the bush was struggling and trying to break herself free from bondage. In the process to scare and frighten Warmil, the woman changed into a lizard but Warmil hung on tightly.
She then changed into a cassowary, then a wild pig and then into a giant snake. But Warmil knew that the original form was a human and she would get back into her human shape so he hung on.
At the same time he knew he was playing a dangerous game of with the spirit woman and she could take away his life. On the other hand he loved that woman so much that he hung on to her and was even willing to die for her sake.
Towards the entrance of the village where Warmil lived, the wild spirit woman changed back into the form of a young beautiful woman. She stopped struggling and spoke to the man who had captured and conquered her.
“As you know, I am not one of you humans. But because you liked me and you hung onto me with all your might, we will get married and live together since that must be your will.
“But you must take note that I am not clothed like you humans. So you will have to clothe me and cover up my body like you humans before we go before the eyes of the many in the village”.
Warmil, hearing what came from the wild spirit woman, shouted to his first wife and ordered her to bring some of her best women’s clothing to dress the new woman. The Numai woman arrived with the best of her clothing and she dressed the new arrival, the wild spirit woman, and they brought her into the company of the human folk.
The wild spirit woman faithfully lived with her husband. He arranged to pay some bride price as was the custom. The wild spirit woman, who had changed into the human woman, suggested that whatever items he wished to pay in value should be brought to the base of the Ul tree where he had found her.
He was to neatly place his items of pigs, shells and feathers at the base of the tree and he was further asked to make a speech before allowing the relatives of the spirit woman to come and collect the bride price items.
Warmil did everything precisely as he was instructed. After the speech Warmil and his woman waited to see what would happen. To their surprise everything on the ground disappeared and not a single bride price item or grain of food was left behind.
The spirit woman’s relatives had been watching and listening from all angles but because they did not have human form Warmil could not see any of them.
Warmil and the spirit wild woman from the jungle lived happily and they had seven sons. The first born son was named Bale (meaning the limestone rock, or it could mean the wooden hollowed out drum used for traditional mumus). The second born son was named Kaula (meaning a pillar or post, or everything fitting and straight and correct without error). The third born son was named Weiame and the fourth was named Daragl (meaning, I wrestled or tackled the wild spirit woman). The next three sons were named; Mor, Alauro and Dama. These seven sons from the wild spirit woman together with the two sons from the human woman became the generating fathers of our clan.
Nowadays we respect our jungle and bushes because our grandmother who became the mother of our generation was a woman not from human origin but from the bush. It used to happen and it still happens that whenever there is a prolonged dry season and everything is drying up and there is no water in our creeks and in our water holes the neighbouring tribes often come to our tribe for us to make rain and we would oblige.
I am still following this custom and my wife and my children believe in my making the rain fall. Whenever I go into the river to make the rain fall, it certainly falls.
I therefore believe that my ancestor grandmother who became the mother of my two ancestor’s patriotic fathers, Kulame and Kawak are together tenderly looking on and are watching from their spirit world.
Peter Kepa (54) comes from Nera Gaima in Kerowagi District in Simbu Province. He is married with six children and is a writer and compiler of curriculum material for the Simbu English Teachers Association at the Provincial Education Office in Kundiawa. Writing short stories and poems and collecting traditional legends, myths, and origins stories has been his hobby since he started teaching in 1993. He hopes to one day publish a collection of Simbu traditional legends, myths and folk tales