An entry in the Rivers Prize
ONE MIGHT SUGGEST NOWADAYS that Blood is not thicker than Water. Back then, knowing that a brother was definitely fighting against the odds, to stand up for him in counter attack was the only way forward.
Many development mentors argue that our cultures and traditions are old-fashioned; that they hold back progress in nation building and that we should completely forget about them and adopt new ways of life.
I’m not opposing this or supporting it, but I will try to shed some light of how I perceive a good life for the Melanesian Way.
I was brought up in a Christian home and I must not deny that, in my early childhood, mum and dad held my hand while walking to church until I learnt to cross the road to attend church on my own.
I decided not to cross the road anymore.
I was immersed in a way of life which shares a cup of tea with visitors, sleeps on the same mat, uses the same footwear…. This was how I was taught to care, cherish, protect and love; this is how my late parents rendered the Melanesian Way.
Anyone who dropped by our home always had a cup of tea. Mum’s approach was simple. She would serve the cup for the visitor.
But asking for a cup of tea when visiting was not her thing. One may be really thirsty for a cup of tea or hungry for a plate of food, but to admit it in a different home was not as easy as today. There were many traditional connotations that would be assumed if otherwise.
Knowing how parents adore their children especially when they are the first and last, one could imagine the luxury of attention, care, love these special born get. Talk about goodies, fine clothes, presents, processed food amid traditional fresh fish wild yams and bananas, this was my set-up.
Both mum and dad had decent jobs which paved the way for healthy living. Also caring for and loving both young and old and extended families were a huge part of our Melanesian lifestyle.
From paying a cousin’s school fees to buying graduation gowns were a show of loyalty, attachment and bridge to embrace a good life for the people and pave the way for development.
But it was not until the time came when the parents’ chairs were empty, that I embraced the Melanesian way. There was love, passion, warmth and togetherness in living side by side in cultural collaboration - including hunting-fishing, collecting firewood or fetching water. The bedridden were cared for; the hungry were served with magical laughter.
Traditional marriage, bride price ceremonies, funeral feasts and welcoming new born into families were what I term the big ticket items in the Melanesian Way. All these big ticket items were a parallel result of the basic welcoming of families into homes.