An entry in The Crocodile Prize
Cleland Family Award for Heritage Writing
BEFORE 1984, Nembare would come to visit his family at Neragaima and return to Omdara, and at times would take his family to Omdara.
Nembare and his wife also took on parental responsibility when Dongo’al’s mother, Anna Apane, died in 1969, leaving Dongo’al and her three siblings behind with their father Waim Kral.
Dongo’al being the eldest child and being married, with kind assistance from her husband would help take care of her younger sister Kulba Erkina and brothers Raphael Witne and Dama Masalai.
Since Salome was in the care of the Catholic nuns, Dongo’al and Nembare would take care of their son Bomai and all of Dongo’al‘s younger sibblings.
One of Dongo’al’s younger brothers, Raphael Witne, was selected to do his high school studies at Gun Topil, a boy’s only school about 10 kilometres to the west of Neragaima. It is now called Rosary Secondary School Kondiu (pictured).
Witne completed his high school studies in 1975 and went on to complete his Primary Teaching Certificate towards at the end of 1977 at Holy Trinity Teacher’s College.
Dongo’al’s younger sister, Kulba, followed her Gelua’gauma Onn’bi cousins to Goroka where she met Winterford Haoda, a slim-built man from the Orokaiva tribe of Popondetta. They married and moved to Mount Hagen where they live still.
Dongo’al’s youngest brother, Dama, stayed at his birthplace, Imil Tomale, and later moved to Banz to live with his cousins. He sells betelnut, tobacco rolled in newspapers and Cambridge cigarettes whenever he can afford to buy a packet to resell.
Waim Kral’s children, Witne and Dama, would follow their adopted parents Nembare and Dongo’al to Omdara. Dama would skip school at Neragaima to stay at Omdara and Witne would go to Omdara during school holidays from Kondiu.
At Omdara, Nembare and his wife worked hard to look after Dama and Bomai. Whenever Witne came home for holidays, he would be treated differently, a treat reserved for a few high school students at that time.
He was the envy of the Nulai-kia girls, who would be jealous of each other and try to win Witne’s attention.
Witne can still recall the names of the most beautiful Nulai-kia girls he courted. He describes the girls as great beauties of their time. Their beauty resembling the orchids of Kubor range, their voices soft and their laughter like the sound of the river Maril. They had eyes that could make men melt at first sight.
Witne adds that this was why he would miss classes during his college days, to court the Nulai-kia and Nombri-Kepa girls of the Yuri tribe, and he almost failed his college courses.
Witne completed his teacher training and was posted to teach at schools in Simbu, his home province. He taught at Mogi-yagi, Gaima, Karil-maril and other primary schools.
But he left teaching after a few years and pursued a new career in the security industry, where he excelled and became national operations manager with the Securimax company in 1997 before resigning to contest the national election.
In the 1970s through to the early 1980s, there had been continuous tribal warfare within the Yuri tribe. In 1984, Nembare realised his son Bomai, 10 years old, and of school age and he could not let him stay out of school.
Iri-maule Primary School near Omdara was used as a battlefield and the classrooms and staff houses were gradually destroyed. The staff members feared their life and left the school. So Bor’mil Primary School, which has been recently elevated to high school status, was the nearest school for the children of Yuri at that time.
The Nulai-kia children who attended school at Bor’mil had to walk from Omdara to Waramon on level land then climb the stiff ridge from Waramon to Bormil, a walk that required stamina.
Nembare sensed his son Bomai was unfit to walk the long distance to school and back each day. When he attempted to enroll Bomai at Iri-maule for first grade in 1984, after the tribal warfare, he was told that his son could not reach over his head to touch his other hear, thus was too young for enrolment. Bomai had one short arm.
Had Nembare kept the birth record of his son, he could have argued that Bomai had met the age of enrolment and was already 10.
Nembare told himself that carrying a bow and arrows around to defend his tribal and clan territory from invading tribes and clan was not going to help Bomai get to school.
He contemplated moving to his wife’s place to settle. So in 1984Nembare and his wife moved out of Omdara for Nergaima, taking the few possessions they owned with them.
Nembare came and settled at Kamtai, on his wife’s family land, and later moved to Kilma, where he settled on a big block of land where he could build a family house, make gardens and raise one or two pigs to sell for school fees and other necessities.
The Erula Nolai’gauma tribal land at Kilma had been left unoccupied since mid-1970 as a result of inter-tribal warfare between the Erula-Naur and Yuri tribes of Simbu.
Dongo’al’s uncle with Ulne Kama married Wakai Paulina, a woman from the Erula-Nolai’gauma clan. When the Erula-Nolai’gauma clan members’ territory was invaded during a tribal fight, they evacuated to settle on the other side of the Wagi River, now Siur’nile.
Ulne moved with his wife Pauline to settle at his wife’s place, Kilma. Ulne invited her niece Dongo’al to move to Kilma with her husband. Dongo’al and Nembare were given a big land to settle on and they started working hard and soon had big gardens and a number of pigs at the backyard.
Bomai was doing Grade 1 at Saint Paul’s Primary school, Neragaima. He had to sleep at Kilma and walk about four kilometres, mostly climbing the Mekul plateau, and descending each day. Bomai would join his peers in playing marbles, hide and seek and other games on the way home.
On weekends, he would joint his peers in searching for ‘keme’ along rivers Dipi’nile and sometimes ventured further to river Kola’kawa nile.
At school, Bomai settled in and began to do well. He was confident in speaking and writing A, B, Cs and 1, 2, 3s. His parents ensured he had kaukau to eat and take to school for lunch. His father would attend almost all parents and citizens meeting and do manual work every Thursday.
Most Thursdays, he would walk his son to school and watch him assemble with students and listen to the teachers giving directions as if he understood the English language. He did it because of his pride for his son.
At that age, Bomai could not understand why his father took so much pride in his early years of schooling. It became apparent later when Bomai started to reminisce after his father told him of his thoughts and feelings in those years.
From 1984 to 1987, Bomai continued to do well at school and was among the top students of his age. He was often among the top three students. He was a naturally talented boy and his father was happy whenever he heard that his son topped his grade in term assessments.
But hope turned into despair in 1987, when there was an election-related tribal war between the Dom tribe of Gumine District and Bari tribe of Kerowagi District after the national elections.
The fight lasted for three months with many casualties on both sides and the school was closed. Parents who wanted to put their children in other schools were provided with official transfer cards.
The fight was a double blow for Nembare’s family. Kilma became a battlefield and the family house and property were among the first to be destroyed by the Dom tribe. Nembare did not know where to relocate his family members, few pigs and other household goods.
He negotiated with a Garin from the Alane’gauma clan of Bari and temporarily relocated his family to make shift accommodation. Fortunately; it didn’t rain for most of that time.
Nembare had to join his in-laws to fight the enemy tribe and ensure his family had something to eat. He would carry a bag to the battlefield and search for kaukau and yams to bring home for the family and the pigs. Nembare did not have time to think properly about his son’s school and encouraged him to stay with his mother at home.
In the Simbu tradition, a clan whose member was involved in instigating a fight is accused of ‘kura mapir’ (people or clan who instigated tribal warfare) and the 1987 fight had been instigated by a Bari - Kiri’gauma Dama Yalkop - an extended cousin of Dongo’al.
When the other clan sought redress and some form of compensation for their members killed and property destroyed, Nembare, by virtue of his marriage, was obliged to accept the destruction of his home and property at Kilma and contribute to the Kiri’gauma clan in paying compensation to other clans.
This tribal warfare also marked the beginning of many Kiri’gauma clan members migrating from their tribal land. They had to go and labour in plantations or settle on fertile land where they could raise pigs and money to compensate other clans who had their members killed or property destroyed during the war.
Nembare had to find a new land to build house and settle his family in and so moved back to Kamtai.
In 1987, normalcy was restored and the Dom and Bari tribes made peace. Bomai went back to school to repeat Grade 4. Nembare had to look for money to pay school fees and had to work hard.
From some money he may have hidden the previous year, he started a small canteen and sold basic goods such as salt, rice, fish, cigarettes, oil and roll tobacco.
He said he was paying too much to transport these goods from town to the village and could not make enough money so he decided to close the business.
In a conversation with Bomai, a few months ago, Nembare revealed it was difficult for him to raise his children among his in-laws. He knew his in-laws would assist paying his children’s school fees if they had extra money but it was not right to demand assistance from them.
Nembare left the Bari tribe for Omdara in 1998 when his son Bomai was accepted to pursue studies in Political Science at the University of Papua New Guinea.
Nembare now enjoys his rolled tobacco each noon at the river Maril and prepares land for his grandchildren to play on when they visit him during vacations.