An entry in The Crocodile Prize
Cleland Family Heritage Writing Award
SEMBELIE, my son, our country is changing. What your grandfather and grandmother taught me is not what it is today. My hope is that when you read this story you will not forget that beneath all the technology and modern facilities lies the real you.
You were born to a woman who waited for so long for you. I would not have changed one bit of my past to have you in my life today. My wish for you is that you hold on to the values that daddy and I teach you and know that real strength comes from a pure heart.
Know the difference from right and wrong and fear God because in Him do we live and in Him do we exist.
Sembelie each day is full of change.There is construction everywhere. The city is changing and mountains are cut down to make space for roads. Trees that have stood for years are cut down for three-lane roads and even a flyover.
This is development, son, and one day when you are old enough to drive your own vehicle you will see.
Mummy and daddy want you to have a good education so you can make it to a good university and get a good job. Mummy never had the choices that you have today. Appreciate what you have now because nothing stays the same for long accept the word of God.
Home is where your roots are, so keep your father’s words close to your heart and remember what he says to you. He will tell you who your uncles and aunties are and one day he will take you to where your grandfather is buried in a beautiful part of this country where there are hamlets and plains. Where the land is fertile and food is not scarce.
This is your village, Holic, in the Yangoru District. Your grandfather was a chief and a powerful man. He was very influential and could speak with authority like your father. He had that fighting spirit that I know lies in you. My son this is your heritage and your identity. It makes you unique, special and blessed.
Mummy comes from the islands, where you need to get on a boat to reach very far away on a rocky island beachfront called Baluan.
Fish and octopus are smoked there and you can get taro and yam. It is not like your father’s land but similar because food is in abundance. But today the weather is changing, son. The island is getting smaller and the sea is taking away the land.
I hear stories from your Papau’s (Bubu) in the village and my heart saddens. It is now the place where our government has placed a refuge centre for asylum seekers. Son, I fear for my island and read and watch from a distance.
Marriage will one day take you away, my son, but do not choose hastily and take your time in courtship. Remember that beauty is only skin deep and don’t be fooled by what’s on top. Strive to see what’s in her heart.
You and many others who are born today hold the key to our future. Strive for wisdom in all you do and remember your roots at all times. Bless others with what you have because God will repay you tenfold.
Beware of pride and arrogance because it will bring you down. Noken paitim bros tumas, that is what Bubu Beula said and lastly son make me and daddy proud, my son, my hope, my Sembelie.
Lower photo: Ilangin Sangkol and her husband Casper Marru