‘The Flight of Galkope’ by Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin, Crawford House Publishing, Adelaide, 2012. Contact www.crawfordhouse.com.au to pre-order a copy
THE TRIBES AND CLANS OF THE GALKOPE have occupied the steep mountain slopes and valleys of the southern part of the Simbu Province in Papua New Guinea for countless generations. But this was not always so.
A son of the Galkope, Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin, spent several years trekking through his traditional homeland talking to people about their origins.
The primary forums for his enquiries were the traditional men’s huts, where the elders and sages of the Galkope recounted, interpreted and handed down their stories from the past.
Through these old men, it has been possible to delve back several hundred years into the mists of time to the very moments of the inception of the Galkope as a distinct people and nation.
From that time, when Luis Vaez Torres was first touching the southern shores of Papua New Guinea and when mythical beings and legendary warriors touched shoulders in the high mountainous interior, the story is brought slowly and carefully forward to the near present when the Galkope began their flight to the four corners of Papua New Guinea to form a great diaspora.
The journey includes the exploits of the legendary explorer and founder, Alai Bia, and his quest for new lands; the story of Warmil and his spirit-wife and Sipa, the munificent half-man, half-raptor; through to the arrival of the first Christian missionaries and the eventual disintegration of the Galkope under the incessant plague of inter-tribal warfare and the bane of the new politics and economic imperatives of an independent Papua New Guinea.
Today over half the Galkope live outside the Simbu. The importance of the men’s huts and their sages has diminished. The magnificent valleys and mountains now sit in the aura of a silent sun and the rivers and streams flow over the pebbles of a lost time. Soon there may be no memories at all.
The Flight of Galkope is an attempt to salvage those memories and render them in a form for the modern age so that those Galkope, no matter where they now live, will be able to understand where they come from and what made them.
It is a well-worn cliché that to understand the present one must understand the past. For the Galkope this may now be possible through Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin’s meticulously researched and distinctly Papua New Guinean historical account. It is something that other people in Papua New Guinea might consider and reflect upon too.
Sil will be familiar to PNG Attitude readers for his thoughtful and sometimes provocative articles. He has also been a regular contributor to the Crocodile Prize and his work appears in both the 2011 and 2012 Anthologies. He is also a member of the Papua New Guinea Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers.
He was born in the Galkope of the Simbu Province. He studied to become a Catholic priest but quit soon after completing his philosophical studies and attended the University of Papua New Guinea. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Social Development and Anthropology.
Added to his credentials is a certificate of Leadership in Strategic Health Communication from the Johns Hopkins University (USA). He is now the senior policy analyst at the PNG National AIDS Council Secretariat.
This book is a significant contribution to both Papua New Guinean literature and history and should stand as a shining example for Papua New Guinean writers to come.
This afternoon the PNG Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers has its inaugural annual general meeting, adopts a constitution and elects its first office bearers. Sil Bolkin will be there. The announcement of the publication of his significant work is a very proud moment for all PNG writers