Phil Fitzpatrick and I have long wrung our hands about losing the story of Papua New Guinea’s history - present and past; the loss of true stories not much recorded and not much cared about in this time of change. PNG’s government, caring about its own ego, being more concerned with building a flashy city than creating a grand nation. But now former public servant and latter day author, Mathias Kin –after many years of personal devotion, struggle and expense – is on the cusp of publishing a history of the Simbu people. His has been a monumental achievement and an act of loyalty and love of his own heritage and a recognition that to gift an understanding of this is a legacy to future generations which will inspire and empower them. I hope you will buy this book when it appears in the next few months. And I hope just as much, that many other Papua New Guineans will follow in the footsteps of Mathias and commit to the long and often thankless travail of writing the history of their own people – Keith Jackson
KUNDIAWA - My early childhood in South Chimbu was spent with my fathers, mothers and grandparents in the gardens, hunting for birds along the Wahgi River, fetching water from nearby streams and collecting dry twigs from the bush for the night fires.
In the evenings, lying on those hard wooden beds usually resting my head on my father’s arm in the warmth of the hausman fire, I listened to my fathers and grandfathers talk of their heroic deeds in their former lives.
One of the stories that touched me most was of the killing of many of our people - not many pig-killings back - by a kiap they referred to as Holteru and his policemen at Suanule (Sua Creek). I believe I know the identity of Holteru.
After graduating from the Papua New Guinea University of Technology I came back to Chimbu to work as a public servant. Out of curiosity I started asking about these past experiences and I was not surprised when people in other parts of Chimbu told me stories of similar killings.
It troubled me to imagine that, in modern times, these government officials would do such barbaric things. I knew that, over time, these stories would be forgotten and the children of Chimbu, Papua New Guinea and the world might never know of them if they were not written down.
And so the idea of a history book on Chimbu was born; a history book in nine chapters.
Chapter 1 provides an introduction to Chimbu and Chapter 2 a short pre-history of the region I have entitled ‘Taim Bipo - A stone age people’.
Chapter 3, ‘The coming of the lightning men’, tells of the arrival of foreigners into Chimbu in the 1930s and Chapter 4, ‘The killings of Europeans and Chimbu people’, tells the stories that initially propelled me into writing this history.
Chapter 5 is on the process and events of those early exploits by outsiders to penetrate and control Chimbu. Chapter 6, ‘Stone Age to Modern Age’ covers the transitional period leading to Papua New Guinea’s national independence in 1975 and Chapter 7 is on the post-independence period until 1995.
Chapter 8, which covers events after 1995 up to the current time, I call ‘Three Decades of Growth and Gradual Decay’ and, in Chapter 9, in ‘Final Words’ I conclude with some thoughts on the future of the Chimbu Province and its people.
In the chapter that concerns the killing of indigenous people, I search for truth and try to get close to it but I know I can never present a truth that is beyond dispute and critical analyses. My story does not claim to adequately represent events seventy years ago. But have not the stories been told that capture the truth better than me?
My goal is to write towards what I call an inclusive history where the Chimbu side of the story is told, and tell it in the best way that does justice to the voiceless. The voices contained in my primary documents ought to be heard because these had remained silent for over seventy years.
Generally names, events and dates will be missing, not adequately captured or wrongly placed in the scripts. I expect critics and disputes for which I take responsibility and will address them in a review and a new edition.
Throughout the pages there are materials that might be better suited to an anthropological study. But I wanted to tell the whole story and I have attempted to tell it in as straightforward a way as I can.
I undertook some research through a number of archives: the Chimbu Department Archive, Lutheran archives in Kundiawa and the Melanesian Institute in Goroka.
I gained momentous spur from Anton Kaiyul of the Kipaku tribe who has kindly allowed me to use his entire research into the killing of his people by a government patrol at Dirima.
I must make special mention of two gentlemen who greatly assisted me with historical material, especially with me working out of Kundiawa unsupervised and where resource material is hard to find. Dr Bill Standish and Dr Robin Hide both of the Australian National University were my strong allies as I laboured through this book over ten years.
Phil Fitzpatrick and Keith Jackson also supported me with material in my research. Phil was also the chief editor of the book. Robin Hide also looked over the earlier scripts and Bill Standish assisted me with advice on chapter seven and eight.
Much important knowledge of our past was obtained from interviews I undertook – beginning in 2000 - with some of the old heroes of the past. Today the numbers of these colourful people are decreasing fast – many of my interviewees have since died - which indicates to me how urgent it is that this book be published before all these heroes, like my fathers, are gone and their stories go with them to be forgotten. Without the durability of the written word, our generation and others to come will never authentically replicate the unique memories of these people.
In this regard, I give the highest credit to my father, Raphael Kin Hobel and uncle Mikal Nime Nul, who in their early teens encountered Leigh Vial in 1939 and later as young men John Costello in 1946. These men were my constant allies whenever I came up short on any issue during my research.
I want to also thank my ‘brother’ at the Chimbu Writers Association, Arnold Mundua, and Cletus Kuble of Bomaigaun clan who constantly provided me with advice and support throughout the period of writing.
In each chapter, I have written short life stories of some great Chimbu characters, locals as well as expatriates. Without them a book on Chimbu would not be complete. Maybe these profiles will be a catalyst for whole biographies of these iconic people.
This book can be used in schools and colleges. It will also be a good gift for friends and for the many people who visit the Highlands. Also the indigenous Chimbu people – whether in Chimbu or in the diaspora - will get to know their homeland better.
And, importantly, our younger generation will appreciate our past as I have while collecting, assembling, understanding and bringing to the page this important information about our province and our people.