'The KomKui Who Made a Covenant with God' by Brother Pat Howley FMS, The DWU Press, [email protected], ISBN978-9980-9932-5-0
THE KOMKUI IS A RELATIVELY NEW TRIBE, formed in 1980 from the coming together of the of two Mokei tribes (the Komunka and the Kwipi) of the Mt Hagen region.
Both were descendants of the Melpa people who have lived in the Highlands for tens of thousands of years.
The amalgamation was a result of a push to end ancient grudges that existed amongst the Mokei causing continuing tribal tensions in the region.
While the original source of the angst had been long forgotten, the feeling and hatred passed down the generations resulted in sporadic incidents of fatal violence.
When the Covenant with God referred to in the title was agreed in 1980, the KomKui promised to never fight again.
The KomKui Who Made a Covenant with God was compiled to capture the history of the tribe and the Melpa language group from which they descend.
Through colonial diaries, anthropological evidence and cross-checked accounts, the book systematically examines the history of the tribe: ancient cultural practices, agricultural advancements and tribal splits; the arrival of the white man and the colonial era; Christianity; and tribal warfare.
Then there is the formation of the KomKui, the role religion played in this, some dubious business decisions, finally, the success of the tribe.
When author Brother Pat Howley began to write The KomKui, it soon became apparent that two of the figures central to the formation and continuity of the tribe were Pius Tikili and Andrew Dokta.
Tikili is a highly educated KomKui businessman who brought western capitalism to the tribe. While there were hiccups along the way but much of the stability of the KomKui today can be attributed to sound business investments.
Dokta is a charismatic musician, magistrate and Christian leader who drove the amalgamation of the tribes and the simultaneous commitment to peace.
Dokta can also be credited for addressing many social issues along the way, including sub-standard housing, raskol gangs, tribal grudges and community pride.
The two men present as similar characters in many ways - their incredible drive, self-confidence and belief that the ends justify the means.
But despite these similarities, their ideological differences created a long term rivalry between Tikili and Dokta.
Howley, in an attempt to free The KomKui of personal agendas, gives a balanced account of the achievements and shortcomings of both men.
When the book was made available to him in draft form, this approach satisfied Tikili.
However Dokta was unhappy about the inclusion of Tikili per se and demanded that The KomKui be rewritten entirely about himself.
In fact Dokta was so dissatisfied that he threatened the life of one of Howley’s associates when he was distributing free copies of the book.
This behaviour may seem surprising coming from a man who drove the KomKui to agreeing a Covenant with God to never fight again, however Dokta was no stranger to using his power to get his own way.
In the late 1970s Dokta had ordered his young followers to find older tribespeople still participating in traditional spiritual practices and order them to stop or be fined.
Dokta went further, using his power as a magistrate to threaten conviction to any member of the tribe who was not baptised and committed to a Christian god.
The paradox of the rivalry between Tikili and Dokta is that the KomKui needed the drive of both men to succeed in maintaining peace while the two men at the heart of this ultimately successful transformation couldn’t manage it themselves.
Pat Howley and his team of researchers have done a great service (albeit presently under-appreciated) with the publication of The KomKui by recording the tribe’s 25,000 year history. It was a story that was on the verge of being forgotten forever.
The KomKui has appeal on an historical level in its factual sections on both ancient practices and colonial times.
However readers will also derive a strong emotional draw from anecdotes of squabbles that escalated to tribal wars and the men who did so much to end them.