An entry in the Crocodile Prize
Cleland Family Award for Heritage Writing
MAKAI Ike or Haus Makai is a hut where the Catholic faithful, especially Simbu villagers, congregate to pray at night.
Almost every clan has a minimum of two Makai Ike and they invite clans from other tribes, and even their neighbours in the Western Highlands and Jiwaka, to occasionally come for prayer, a privilege which is reciprocated.
Most Haus Makai are not purpose-built but many families turn their homes into Haus Makai, often for ulterior reasons. Sadly, this practice has many darker sides to it, and it can inflict damage on the family units that take part.
First, like all Christians, the owners of the huts seek some sort of favour from the Creator - so the practice is more like a process of bargaining with the Lord than a genuine act of humility and penitence.
Most undertake the process as an appeal to the Lord to respond to an immediate need, such as the healing of a sick family member, financial help from an angel to pay tuition fees or for the successful completion of studies.
A second group of Christians turn their homes into Haus Makai because the intending candidates for national elections visit them to give out goodies such as pressure lamps, kerosene, guitars and of course lamb flaps.
Yes, it is a lazy way of diversifying livelihood and bringing some wealth into the family.
Sometimes the organiser of the Haus Makai’s hidden agenda wants to contest a council ward election or achieve some other local position and is trying to shroud a previous dark life by impressing on the faithfuls how he or she is a reformed and upright citizen.
Now that the traditional karim lek (courtship) entertainment in the evenings has vanished, people, as social beings, are looking for a proxy for courtship and Makai Ike prayer can take that place. The majority of the Papists that frequent it primarily go for the socialising rather than genuine devotion.
The people do not follow the clock, so those who go early to the Makai Ike will expound rhetoric about everything whilst waiting for the other folk to turn up. They will talk about politics, which of course is a delicacy.
Someone will say an intending candidate will come from the US or Australia and eject cartons of cash from helicopters and the cash will cloud the skies, blur their vision and the smell of new notes will suffocate their nostrils. There’s always plenty of this kind of nonsense.
By the time everybody is drowsy and the children sprawling in the dirt snoring, the attendees appoint people to partake in various acts of prayer. By the time they finish, the early hours of the next day will have arrived.
The first negative externality of the Makai Ike is that these parents do an injustice to their children. Apart from singing, the children do not actively participate in the gathering so it is a waste of time and sleep for them.
Some parents leave their kids at home to sleep and run off to the Makai Ike. Parents are supposed to practice basic Catholic life in the family unit. Kids need to see parents cooking, praying, serving the meal, washing up, doing a post mortem on the day’s work, then family prayer and bed time stories.
How can one build a decent Catholic family when children miss out on this important itinerary?
Parents leaving the home in the charge of the teenage boys and girls to look after their siblings is a bad call.
Once the parents depart, with the aid of mobile phones and age old instincts and in the sanctuary of the night, the teenage boys and girls visit each other and have a field day with the father-mother game.
The community will say “the mother is a maria eekopne, or leader of the blue army, but how come the daughter is pregnant or the son has contracted HIV or is a druggie?”
The other truth is that people pray till dawn or thereabouts and sleep during the day. That reduces productivity while thievery of garden produce and domesticated animals soars.
Morua, a leader of our outstation at Ulwal, was halfway through digging up two plots of peanuts from Kolkia’s garden in the early morning hours.
Kolkia spotted the act of attempted theft and came up behind Morua to greet him in the expected way.
Morua jumped and ran but Kolkia pursued him with a razor sharp bush knife. Luckily Morua escaped and saved his neck but his clansmen had to compensate Kolkia.
Apai is a maria eekopne and does some healing with her prayers. She is hired by people from all over the place but none of her six children attend primary school. Her first daughter has gone off and become a second wife.
Apai has spent more than 15 years travelling around various Makai Ike. She takes a reference around written by a Catholic priest confirming that she can do miracles. Meanwhile her kids fend for themselves. She is a good role model, ah?
Wai, the principal of Goramara Makai Ike, and Ba, a mother of five, travelled to Koge for a prayer with others. In the dark of the night, Wai and Ba were copulating under some coffee trees when her small son, who travelled with them, out of curiosity walked out and found the mother with her legs up.
He duly reported this to his father. Two clans were facing off for warfare as an aftermath.
A mother confessed on her dying bed that she had been sleeping around with a particular principal in the Makai Ike and named the places they frequented. Upon her death, the husband dressed her corpse in full traditional regalia and buried her with utmost respect.
The Church unfortunately does not see what we ordinary Papists see happening in the Makai Ike. The Church is made to believe that the Catholic faith is alive through such gatherings.
What would Jesus say if he walked into Simbu?
My guess is that He would burn all the Makai Ike and tell people to return to the family unit for prayer and appear on Sundays for worship.
He would surely outlaw this prayertainment culture that inflates socio-economic ills.