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15 December 2013


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There are no useful arguments for this crime against the nation and the culprit is glorified.

It's sad that the Abelam and Arapesh feel insulted by the use of Kuanua to describe their building design.

My friends in the UK and eleswhere saying how unique and fascinating the Haus nickname and decor.

Like I said, late bus, because losing the carvings is only an indication that we've already lost something special about PNG.

So much for unity in diversity.

Late bus as said by Mike, Jack and Mathias. Very much bogged down on very important matters and got one out to Phil just a while ago and others yet to complete. Might respond when I find time for the late buses.

So since the destruction of the carvings, have we eliminated corruption from parliament? Are we doing better?

In reality we are worse off now then we were before the destruction. Its like jumping from the frying pan into the fire!!

Look at it. Our Simbu singsing bilas maybe evil too? They look very messy and an inconvenient, and of course they are 1000 years old? Our facial paintings are scary to some.

If someone is worried about these carvings like Zurenuoc, your faith in Jesus Christ the Lord is not strong. As believers, you should be able to digest Christian ideologies and discard unchristian issues. Not destroy them.

Christian country? I am not too sure about that now!

And our parliament house is not called a Haus Tambaran.

Mr Nii, could you please be more specific. Where specifically in the Preamble of the PNG Constitution does it state that we're a "Christian country"? I'd really like to read that.

And also, section three of the fifth National Goal and Directive Principle in the Constitution - Papua New Guinea Ways, clearly states that we are to recognise, respect and appreciate our traditions and culture. Destroying these artifacts then, to a certain extent is in direct defiance of our "mama" law.

Personally, I don't think destroying or removing the design and the artifacts will make much difference. Let's not go on blaming wooden objects for all the corruption and what-not this country grapples with when we all know who the real "tambarans" are!

Dear Mr Dom, Kuanua may be part of the state of PNG but not the nation of Abelam or Arapesh where the shape of the PNG Parliament House was adapted from.

Sepiks or, in this case, the Abelam and Arapesh do not Speak Kuanua!

The usage of a word belonging to a very different culture to describe something that is unique in a different culture, does it fully grasp the true meaning of the Kwarambu/Kalabu?

Yeah I know, the colonialists were responsible for coming up with that name due to their own shallow understanding.

My point; for fellow Papua New Guineans to use the literal meaning of the name Haus Tambaran as a reason or pretext to label the house as evil is somewhat incongruous!

It is an insult to the Abelam and the Arapesh people.

Late bus Jack. Kuanua is just as much a part of PNG as the Sepik haus man.

Evil haus? That story was perpetrated by colonials.

And what's the purpose of your outburst?

I saddens me to realise Francis Nii's shallow understanding and appreciation of the origins of the name Haus Tambaran.

Tambaran is a Kuanua word referring to evil and haus is a German word referring to a building or a house.

Now ask yourself why should a Kuanua and German word be used to describe a phenomenon found only in the Sepik.

Go back and study your history na ba yu save.

Thank you David. I am glad you have an exact understanding of the entire content of my article. If only all the opponents understood the article in the same way as you, our arguments would have been healthy and without unnecessary and irrelevant personal attacks and inferences. Anyway, such are the perils of public debate and commentary that we have to cope with.

Yes Parliament is not a Museum, it is the "House of the People" and it should very well reflect something of the people, who are represented by their members etc it needs an identity.

I don't believe these carvings are really overdone, they represent the people of PNG and if they are to be removed they should be preserved and not destroyed.

Keeping them intact should now be a priority. With all this media attention they can certainly be used as a drawcard. I would like to view them up close and will take opportunity next time I visit POM to do this if I can.

Maybe the TPA, National Museum and other authorities can step in and assist removing these carvings in a manner which can preserve them.

Ooh. I've just been on the phone to Mana Dau. She is an old-time Catholic.

She says (translated): "These new religions that clap their hands, speak mauswara and wave their arms in the air are infected by the devil. Don't believe what they say."

Sorry Hillsongers, but that's the word of wisdom from Mana Okuk.

Francis, I totally agree with you. You have set out everything in detail. You have addressed both spiritual & physical aspects of the issue. Your conclusion is absolutely splendid. You will be criticized by those who walk by sight on the grounds of culture, but those who walk by faith will surely appreciate your article. God bless you Francis!

Paul, no need to be very personal in your comments against Francis. In one breath you are against the removal of the carvings and in another you mention the lucrative contractor for their removal. So which is of more importance to you, the removal of the wooden carvings [that frankly do no bother the majority of the country who are non Sepik] or the wanton stealing of public monies through shady corrupt contracts?

You cowardly mash potatoes of humanity!

How dare you call yourselves Papua New Guinean!

You of no past and of no particular future!

You of no fixed destination!

How dare you waste this space and time!

Even the water in the coconut can boast new life!

I fear for you lot! Ready to give away what God has given you for that which you cannot readily touch feel or define!

What is wrong about what God has given you? What is wrong with God's creation?

Is God a Jew?

What if he was Melanesian! Then what?

Paul, do you know where most or all of the carvings originated from and how the patron identifies them? They are from Murik and the patron calls them 'living spirits with fixed abodes' as Corney has pointed out.

You may have been too westernised to think otherwise but what is that supposed to mean according to the patron?

The spirits had lived their time and served their purpose and it's time for them to return to their original habitat or else imprisoned them at the National Museum ... haha!

Corney - they are our spirits.

Thanks for the responses.

How about the specific characterization " as living spirits" ?
And are they good spirits or ancestral unholy spirits relied upon to achieve one's interest?

In what context were those labels applied?

Francis you are against religious fundamentalism, the ferment of perpetual discord all over the world today and throughout history, are you not?

Come, come, Francis you are an intelligent Simbu, are you not?

Did you see Satan or Baal creeping under the shadow of the tall carved statue foaming and frothing at its mouth, or beneath the lintel lay, uttering all manner of gibberish till its horns were shiny red?

Did you or the Speaker hush walk upon the congregation of demons worshipping the traditional carvings by the buildings divide?

Have you looked into the eyes of the Speaker lately and seen the demon of grotesque figure looking back at you, a mere reflection of the figure looming large behind you?

And the singing of the congregation you heard. The repetitive chanting. The shouting of strange Arabic or Aramaic words in between the slaying of the spirit, and the laughter, strange laughter and the clapping!

Are you sure they were demons at worship of their master Satan at one of their annual feasts, right there in our Parliament House?

Are you sure the Master Wizard and the Mistress Witch are not MPs simply waylaid?

And the singing congregation not a student fellowship group also waylaying themselves?

Hallelujah Brother! Praise the Lord! Burn the Parliament down! For the spirit world has also come to inhabit the inanimate!

Be careful o wise man of Simbu. Don't let your mind play tricks on you and deny your own existence.

Next time you pray, ask God why he didn't create you a Jew!

While we at it ask God who is the real demon making money behind the desecration. Is it not L& A Brick Layers?

Ask how much is the contract? K20 Million? Try K40 Million? Check if it was tendered out? Also check why are so many MPs suddenly supporting the desecration? Perhaps the PM has something to do with it?

Next time ask God who the real demon is in Parliament.

God knows the truth. He will tell you. After all your name is Francis!

My very personal suggestion: Don't jail anybody! Take what happened in Parliament as a blessing in disguise and try push ahead with a healthy and open sharing to make sure that all good of the past is kept and all the evil is relinquished...

As time goes on, in fact, and the debate widens, one has to admit that the barbarian-style destruction of the carvings was unfortunate and unilateral.

A lot of soul searching, however, seems to be needed as far as social, psychological, religious beliefs are concerened. Ancestral feelings are still quite alive. Distinguishing between them and pure work of art doesn't appear to be easy exercise...

In Europe as well a lot of old cultural and religious symbols were destroyed over the centuries because of true or supposed incompatibility with the new times, beliefs, sensitivity, etc.

The title of the book is also a quote from Michael Somare, which he made before independence in a message to the Pacific Arts Association.

He said: "We now have a National Museum and Art Gallery. These house our heritage. Some of our most valuable pieces of artwork are outside our country.

"I would ask you all to cooperate with us in returning our ancestral spirits and souls to their homes in Papua New Guinea. We view our masks and our arts as living spirits with fixed abodes."

Margaret Mead, the famous anthropologist, quoted Somare in a book she edited in 1979 called 'Exploring the Visual Art of Oceania'.

PS, I did a review of the book for PNG Attitude on 20 April 2012.

I have a copy of 'Living Spirits and Fixed Abodes' edited by my good friend Barry Craig from the South Australian Museum.

Michael Somare wrote the foreword and launched the book at the PNG National Museum last year.

In that foreword he says, "Tolerance comes about through understanding. It is important for our people and children to understand why some of their ancestors built sacred houses and adorned them with spirit masks.

"They must be able to access information on why others tattooed their bodies and what these tattoos mean. They must know who their traditional trading partners were and how these trading relationships can be improved, strengthened and adapted to suit their future environment and needs."

It is published by Crawford House, which is owned by Tony Crawford, who recently published Sil Bolkin's book about the Galkope and their men's houses.

You can buy it in any good bookshop in Australia or at the shop at the National Museum in Port Moresby. Otherwise, order it from the Crawford House website (and buy a copy of Sil's book at the same time).

The book is simply an examination of the PNG artefacts held in the National Museum. It has many fine photographs and showcases the talents of PNG's master artists and carvers.

Corney - I believe the reason it is not for sale in Australia and New Zealand is a copyright issue, not censorship.

Thank you Francis.

I put out a quote from the, Grand Chief Michael Somare, on how he views these carvings in my response to Phil, Keith and Dr. Moutu earlier.

No one has yet given a satisfactory response on that yet.
"The Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare called them as “living spirits with fixed abodes”"

Also, any reason why this book is not for sale in Australia and New Zealand?

There is no where else in PNG you find a haus tambaran except in the Sepik, mainly in the east.

It is where the good and evil spirits of the Sepiks, represented in the form of carvings, are worshipped and sacrifices and initiations are performed strictly in adherence to rules or else the curses of the evil spirit befall the people.

To the rest of common PNGians, tambaran is an evil spirit and it should not be lurking in the House that belongs to the 21 provinces of PNG.

[from Wiktionary]: Tambaran (noun) 1.demon; 2.spirit; 3.ghost; 4.ancestor. Take your pick - KJ

I don't think tambaran means 'evil' spirits.

Someone from Sepik may know better, but my understanding was that Haus Tambaran is a term provided by early missionaries to describe the house where ancestral spirits in the form of carved representations were kept.

A man had to be initiated to be able to contend with these spirits. Akin to baptism and confirmation methinks.

The notion that these spirits are necessarily evil may be entirely concocted by ignorant fools.

In the traditional mind there was belief in beings that were not of this world, could not be understood and were felt to be responsible for unexplainable phenomenon.

Westernised PNGians call these beings 'spirits'and prescribe carvings as being non-human and terrifying.

Of course the carvings would look non- human when we represent beings that are not of this world.

Of course they would look terrifying when people could not understand the natural phenomenon that surrounded them, and literally lived in the dark with only fire light.

I grow weary of reading articles defending Theo's actions, which were simply inexcusable.

We have lost something great about us.

Francis Nii, if the speaker was a man of faith, he would not be intimidated by those carvings. Our leaders must NOT to force their religious views upon people. God was in PNG before Loujaya went looking for Him in Israel. Theo Zurenuoc was NOT mandated by the people to stab wooden carvings.

I love our National,Parliament because it is unique . It is like no other. The PNG cultural legacy captured in the artwork makes it so so very special. These define our culture, our traditions, our people, in a country of different tribes and languages.

It makes me so proud!

I am a Christian ( not a perfect one), but I have never felt my faith was at risk with the Parliament so beautifully adorned as it is (was) in what represents our past heritage.

It is truly sad that we are about denying ourselves, our PNG spirit and things PNG to be "modern" and supposedly in the name of Christianity.

Can someone explain to me why the National Parliament is called Haus Tambaran - the House of Evil Spirit or Demon? Protecting the things that associate with such name is in other words we are condoning the blemish aren't we?

Haus Tambaran is as a nickname. It is not the official or designated name of PNG's National Parliament - KJ

Francis, very interesting thoughts.

Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare has seemingly been upset and calling for the sacking of the parliament speaker Theo Zurenuoc for the “crime” of vandalising carvings is again another great political leader not walking the talk.

Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare had all opportunity to fight against corruption but allowed his cabinet members to get away right under his watch as a Prime Minister.

Fellow PNGian having had no basic health care in the parts of Western/Gulf Province or the remote villages of Highlands were not a great concern.

Millions of kina was mismanaged and stolen by corrupt individual must not have been an issue. With all due respect, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare did not seem to take any form of stand while been the Prime Minister of the country.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), PNG has the worst health status in the Pacific region and ranks 153rd of 187 countries on the UN’s Human Development Index, worse than Bangladesh and Myanmar.

But again we see another political leader willing to make a strong call for the removal and partial destruction of carved heads and parts of totem poles.

I wish when Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare was Prime Minister that he would have been so upset and passionate against corruption that he could have set the examples.

Was our Grand Chief, Sir Michael Somare went into a deep sleep and then just awaken only see the “crime” of the vandalism of the carving that demands the sacking of the Speaker.

It is one thing to remove the carvings but another thing to destroy them as the speaker has. Not everyone in PNG is truly Christian. Many say they are but do so because it avoids conflict with the church. Deep down within their hearts they still treasure their customary beliefs.

Then there are those Christians who outwardly declare to be Christians then inwardly behave in a manner which is anything but Christian. The carvings are a historical reminder of the wonderful culture and skills of past Papua New Guineans and need to be preserved in a museum at least.

Christians need to be Christian. Stop being corrupt and selfish and be like Jesus and help the poor. Put the villagers' needs first that is why you have a parliament with the power to improve everyone's living conditions.

It's not the images that are the problem, its the behaviour of those inside the parliament that could be PNG's downfall.

I am disappointed that you think this way Francisu. No matter what long words, lengthy essays or pulpit preaching The Descecrators and their supporters have commited a crime against this nation; past, present and future.

What a sad a misguided Christianity. Is it any wonder they fight a losing battle and need to import prayer warriors?

By the way apart from a few movie characters from that un-Holywood, why are angels always Caucasian? (I like the blue mutant in X- Men)

How brain washed we are. Hah!

Whenever the real Satan comes to us he will be beautiful, have no doubt.

Give me back my ugly carvings!!!

Oh, I forget, none of our current leaders have the skill, knowledge or talents to do that. There's a word I have for you all that Keith won't post.

And Francis, Theo's action is like someone takes your unduplicated original manuscripts and burns them to ashes in front of your sick bed. Think again friend.

Francis - 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. There are many people who find the carvings in the National Parliament beautiful, and their opinion should be respected.

I am shocked that in developed countries around the world, there would be such respect for our products of the past and in our country people look at these same artifacts with such disrespect. From an outsider's perspective we appear to be coconuts, white on the inside, black on the outside, ashamed of our past, and hoping to become the perfect coconuts. People who are not proud of their culture look like copycats. No one respects copycats like they respect those who are proud of their past and use their culture as a source of strength, like the roots of a mango tree. I cringe when I see our leaders today trying to dress like white businessmen and failing miserably at it. They wear the wrong colour shoes, they don't use the right colour coordination, and their copycatting results in a painfully inferior look. That's what ends up happening. You can't copy another culture and if you try to create a new national culture, you end up copycatting from other cultures and fall in the trap again. We will never be like westerners no matter how hard we try. We will only be laughed at by the world for our efforts. But those parliamentary carvings, no outsider ever laughed at them. They showed us to (once) be a proud people in a proud, newly independent nation. How pathetically we have changed.

Very interesting thoughts, Francis.

Having lived in the Sepik for four years and having visited the Maprik area many times I know a bit about these Haus Tambarams. As an "honorory male" I was allowed to go inside them and was told about their functions in the past.

I taught Music at Brandi and bought the small pot pipes that were used in association with these haus tambarams, the voices of the spirits.

In fact we had a great collection of these various sorts of pipes and I could play them. I even took the students into the bush to cut down the right bamboo to make the small bamboo pipes. Some of my students made beautiful music on these pipes.

So I decided they should perform this music, as a group, on Speech Night. They dressed up in plenty of bilas so they could not be recognized but when it was their turn to perform they went missing.

I found them hiding under the stage and had to do a lot of talking to get them to perform. They knew the spiritual connotations of this music, and were scared.

If all the "poor government" and corruption that we have seen in PNG can be attributed to the spiritual manifestations that go with a Maprik Haus Tambaram then maybe this first parliament house should be turned into a museum and a new parliament house built that is more modern with no connections to PNG's past traditions.

I feel future generations of PNGians should be able to know about the art and music and architecture and religions of their ancient PNG culture. But the country has a problem with the way the country is being run and this has to be solved.

I'm sure the African nations have similar stories to tell. Maybe what is happening now in PNG has happened in these nations over the past 50 years or so.

Maybe some genuine research needs to be done on this subject by the PNGian anthropologists and theologians. The churches should be able to help.

As a Christian I have had some experience of the work of evil spirits and know how horrible, wicked and murderous they can be.

If the parliamentary members feel they are being possessed by evil spirits when they enter this house of parliament then this has to stop.

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