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15 August 2018

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I am married into the Bengebenge (also known as Kokomo or Hornbill) clan of Lavongai.

One morning, after what had been a good 'singsing' at Lavongai Mission, I wondered why one of the clan's lapuns was so unhappy.

My wife explained that one of the many dances was performed by a non-Bengebenge group of young men. Worse, they had not even asked if they could perform it.

I learnt that Pupu-Bengebengepas had the clan's most important collection of hornbill noses. Some were the real thing and quite old. Others were more modern wooden carvings.

You were able to borrow or rent them for a particularly important event like Independence Day.

I was given a wooden one as memento many years ago. It adorns my hallway as a personal 'taim bipo' memorial.

I guess other clans had some lapun with his clan artefacts too. Are they safe today? I will have to inquire from my family there.

Lavongai tapasuk.

I already told Arnold after the event that he should have talked to about bilasing Natasha before looking for one complete set of bilas.

Being a traditipnalist and a proud Chimbu I am, I have kept a patrol box of bilas that can fully dress two young girls. I told Arnold that after the event.

These items were passed down to me by my father and mother and some of the items go two fathers back.
I dressed in these fine regalia at the 1992 16 September independence celebration in Lae Unitech.

Today my daughters Nulai and Noglai wear them all the time on the different occasions.

Yes I do agree these bilas of the Chimbu are disappearing and there is a need for us start preserving what's left in the villages.

My family has our bilas intact.

Good one Arnold. I still have a few items that were given to me in 1970 by a then very old man in Kundiawa,

A small thunder Stone axe, A larger one, a large flat stone axe head in a black polished material Given by Tom Ray CCSU, and two shell head bands in traditional bark tapa.

This modest collection is treasured.

This is a terrific article Arnold about the decline of many Simbu customs. Will you do a follow up article about the Kuman language ? How is that standing up to the pressure of Pidgin and English ?

Wonderful writing Arnold. Thank you for sharing. As I go back to my spreadsheets analysing PNG's economic realities, I will be haunted by this piece highlighting the cultural challenges of development and change.

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