An entry in The Crocodile Prize
Cleland Family Award for Heritage Writing
IN 1966, Nembare followed his father Bomai to Mormapir village. It was a journey that required stamina.
They got up in the morning and walked more than 10 kilometers along the bush tracks of Eka’pa to Pildimna and across the fast flowing streams of Yon’ma, Genabona, Komi’kamale, Talpmina until they eventually arrived at Mormapir.
At Mormapir, Bomai introduced his son to his cousin’s sister. After a few days, Bomai returned to Omdara but Nembare decided to spend some time with his aunt.
After that first visit, Nembare would occasionally travel to and from Omdara to visit his aunt himself and, in 1967, Nembare met Mir Dongo’al Martina, who later became his wife.
Dongo’al was from the Kiri’gauma clan of the Bari tribe and was related to Yal Bom. Whenever, Nembare visited Yal Bom and his family, Dongo’al detected Nembare’s visit as if by instinct and would visit Yal Bom at the same time.
In 1968, Nembare convinced Dongo’al to follow him to Omdara, where she was welcomed with a lengthy shout from an experienced shouter from the Nulai-kia clan.
In Yuri, a gathering of clans-people is called, ‘Wi si mala’ for men and ‘Ala’sa’ for women. The men start in a chorus with ‘si puuu’ and ended with ‘a’a’a uuuuu’ and women join in with ‘aiya uuuu’. This marks the beginning of formal welcome of women into a man’s clan.
A clansman shouted Nembare and Dongo’al’s identity to the neighboring clans after the ‘wi si mala’ and ‘ala’sa’ event. The neighbouring clans waited anxiously for the news whenever hearing the shouts and screams from the other clan.
To the Nulai-kia clan of Omdara, this ceremony cemented the tradition of courtship between the young men of Yuri tribe courting Bari girls and Bari young men courting Yuri girls. The Bari tribe of Kerowaghi has always held the Yuri tribe in high esteem, often thinking of them as their parents and called them ‘nen-man’ in Bari language.
The myth remains that the Bari people were assisted to settle in their current location by the Yuri people, thus the Bari people regard Yuri people as ‘parents’. This understanding has been inherited and embraced by the two tribes over many generations.
This is evident in the two tribes sharing a common land border without ever fighting a tribal war. In most parts of Simbu, neighbouring tribes have often fought wars to settle scores.
The Yuri Ela’kane, Mian’kane and Kumai’kane clans share common hunting grounds with the Bari tribe. Other clans including Nulai-kia live further inland and so interact less with the Bari tribe.
Nembare’s marriage to a Bari marked a breakthrough for Nulai-kia men to marry more Bari women.
Today, the children of Bari women in Omdara call themselves, Bari gal’ (Bari children) to trace their origin to their mother’s tribe.
I was born and raised in my mother’s clan and, when I visited my father’s land at Omdara after almost 30 years, the younger members of the Nulai-kia clan members at Omdara did not know of my existence so took me as just another visitor during the Christmas festive season.
Those over 35 years, however, did recognise me, called me by name and introduced me to others in the Yuri language. “Guna Nembare, wan Dike Bomai wa dungo plngra mala ungi” (This is Guna Nembare’s son, Dick Bomai).
Donogo’al settled in quickly with support from the Nulai-kia clan members and towards the end of 1969 she gave birth to her first daughter and named her Salome. Salome, like other kids of her time, was nursed by her mother and clothed in soft and tender leaves from the bush.
The cool breeze off the river Maril would fan Salome to long hours of sleep, leaving her mother with more time to work and chat with other women.
Salome was browned skinned and healthy. She inherited dark curly hair from her father. Guna Nembare recalls with tears that, if she was alive, she would have grown as tall as her great grandmother’s mountain Wikauma and the clan that married her would boast of its healthy grandchildren.
It was on a fine afternoon in 1975, when the Yuri tribe was settling to reminisce over its pig killing ceremony (Bolma’ike), when her mother placed her in a bilum (string bag) and hung it on a post to allow the evening breeze of river Maril to fan her to sleep.
Her mother didn’t know that she was hanging the little Nulai-kia queen close to the burning mumu stones and this would lead to Salome’s death some years later.
A piece of a sprinkled red hot burning stone landed in the bilum, burning the lower part of little Salome’s right knee joint. Salome’s parents saw that the burn was serious and had to take her to a Catholic church run aid post at Neragaima, several kilometers away at the border of Yuri and Bari tribal land.
The medical experts at Neragaima saw that Salome needed specialist attention and took her to Mingende hospital, which is located some kilometers towards the north-west of Neragaima. At Mingende, the parents were told that Salome’s burns were serious and she would be admitted to the hospital.
Days turned into months and Salome’s parents were bombarded with sorrow of their hurting daughter while family members from Omdara and Nergaima brought their food rations.
The health battled continue until the end of 1975, when the doctors politely told Salome’s parents that had done their best treat Salome but her burns had deteriorated to a point where her tendons were affected and the lower part of her right leg had to be amputated to save her life.
The parents consented and the medical doctors proceeded with the operation. The Catholic nuns recognized the agony the parents went through and offered to take care of Salome and asked if the parents would consent. Salome’s parents agreed and went home.
Salome was left in the care of the Catholic nuns at Mingende after the operation and she recovered and lived among the nuns happily and was introduced to her lifelong companion, the crutch.
Whenever, the nuns visit Neragaima aidpost, they would bring Salome to visit her mother and uncles. Salome lived in her adopted home until she passed away in 1985 at Neragaima aidpost and was buried at her mother’s place, Kamtai, near Neragaima Catholic Mission.
The incident of the burning red hot sprinkling stone landing on little Salome in her sleep created tension between her parents.
Dongo’al wanted to stay at her place with her son, Bomai, who was born in a hamlet in Imil-Tomale in 1973.
Guna Nembare decided to go back to his birth place Omdara and would find time to visit his family and contribute his share of duties. It appears that Nembare never lost sight of his river Maril heritage, guarded by the walls of Pildimna and Dekawi.