Postcards from Logohu Place

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 … … I Googled the  house at 3 Logohu Place, Boroko, today and it didn’t look like it had changed much in the 35 years since I called it home. In those long-ago colonial days the street sign called the little … Continue reading

PNG’s First Ministry

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The grainy old photo above is the official photo of PNG’s first ministry, formed as a coalition under Chief Minister Michael Somare. Judging from the formal attire I would say it was taken immediately after the 17 members of the … Continue reading

Taim Bilong Janet

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There have been lots of stories in the news lately about domestic violence and how it is becoming endemic throughout the world. A lot of the spotlight has been on PNG, where violence against women and children has become a … Continue reading

Don’t Stuff around in a Q

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I have a T-shirt that is 40 years old this year. That may not be a record for T-shirt longevity but it’s pretty good all the same. It shares its birthday with Air Niugini – also 40 this year – … Continue reading

Our Haus on the Hill

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A couple of recent comments posted to this blog by Bruce Thompson, a former journalist with the South Pacific Post’s  newspaper, the Post Courier, send me back to the old photo boxes for some pics of our raunhaus, or gazebo. … Continue reading

‘The Chief’: Sir Michael Somare

Sir MIchael Somare in December 1973, wearing the magnificent Yamdar costume as Sana of his people.

Sir Michael Somare, first Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea, December 1973.

Many expatriate Australians living in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s would have taken at least one photo of Michael (now Sir Michael) Somare whilst he went about his duties as the country’s first Chief Minister. The gallery of photos in this post was taken in his home village of Karau, in the Murik Lakes district of the East Sepik province. The occasion was Somare’s initiation as Sana, or peacekeeper, of his own people but also his initiation as Onkau, or head person, of the family of Lady Veronica Somare, his much respected wife.

What I would like to do in this post is concentrate less on Sir Michael and more on the kind and hospitable people of Karau village. Almost 40 years have passed and there would be people portrayed in the photos who have since gone to join their ancestors. Those of us who remain behind have grown old as each of us must. Even the children would now be in late middle age. My hope is that it is those children who will now enjoy looking at the old photos of what was an important day in the life of their families and their village.

I went to Karau as part of a media contingent. The journey took all day, starting with a flight to the regional capital of Wewak, followed by a very long trip on a coastal boat until we reached the entrance to the Murik Lakes, where we tranferred across to a motorised canoe for the final leg of our journey. By the time we reached Karau, it was already quite late at night and we all bunked down in the guest house that the villagers had prepared for us. I recall that the women supplied us with a delicious chicken and coconut hotpot. The village was built on a sandbank, and we were awoken the following morning by the sound of children playing on the beach. The day of the Sana had begun.

Karau-village-at-dawn

Karau village at dawn and children are already playing on the beach.

Post-breakfast and the rest of the village is on the move. There had been quite a fierce rain storm overnight and there were lots of puddles waiting to be evaporated. The houses, however, had come through unscathed. The ceremony would go ahead.

Early morning after an overnight storm and the men are inspecting for damage. There is nothing but a bit of washed-up debris.

Early morning after an overnight storm and the men are inspecting for damage. There is nothing but a bit of washed-up debris.

 

Bringing in the food offerings copy

Lots of happy smiles…

...and rice for the supper table.

…and rice for the supper table.

Now the men only are summoned to the sacred men's house for the start of the Sana initiation ceremony.

Now the men are summoned to the sacred men’s house for the start of the Sana initiation ceremony.

While the women are locked up in a house on the other side of the village. The sacred part of the ceremony is for men's eyes only.

The women and children wander off to a darkened house on the other side of the village. The sacred part of the ceremony is for men’s eyes only and the women are left to giggle and gossip and chat in the gloom of someone’s home to their hearts’ content. Their confinement lasted for quite a long time but no one seemed to mind.

Lady Veronica Somare with her youngest daughter. She had special dispensation to enter the men's house but elected to stay with the rest of the women..

Lady Veronica Somare with her baby daughter, Dulciana. She had special dispensation to enter the men’s house but stayed with the rest of the women.

When the Sana ceremony is over, the elders escort their Sana through the village. The tall European at the back is Post Courier journo Noel Pascoe, who was invited to join in the proceedings.

When the Sana ceremony is over and the new Sana is escorted through the village.

Singsing dancers performing for the whole village at the end of the ceremony.

Singsing dancers performing for the whole village at the end of the ceremony.

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Somare, after several days of fasting, is desperate for a cigarette and a village elder obliges.

Somare, after several days of fasting, is desperate for a cigarette and a village elder obliges.

And finally there is this  photo, the one that featured in a number of newspapers and the one that the newspaper editors clearly preferred. And that’s the end of the story. A day in the life of Karau village, 40 years ago this year. I hope there are some happy memories there for some of you.

(The copyright for all of the photos in this post is held by the photographer, Veronica Peek, and after that, by her descendants. Must not be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder.)

Finally, after days of fasting, a nicotine hit. Even a Sana is human and Somare, who still smoked all those many years ago, blew smoke rings and savoured the moment.

After days of fasting, a nicotine hit. Even a Sana is human and Sir Michael Somare, who still smoked all those years ago like so many of us did and now regret it, blew smoke rings and savoured the moment. He is dressed in the regalia of onkau to show that he is also the head of Lady Veronica Somare’s family.

Dame Josephine Abaijah: Flying Solo in a Man’s World

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When I look back now on those seventies years in Papua New Guinea, there is one politician who stands out as personal favourite, and that is Dame Josephine Abaijah. In those days when she had no title, Josephine and I … Continue reading

Sir John Guise in Days of Old

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When Sir John Guise became the first Governor-General of Papua New Guinea, way back in 1975, he posed for a portrait for the Post Courier newspaper and this is it. He is in the wash-house at his home in Port … Continue reading

The “Birdman” in PNG

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Do you remember when the “Birdman” came to the Goroka Show in 1974 and put on a great exhibition of hang gliding for everybody, with smoke flares and the like? In the previous year, the South Pacific Brewery had taken … Continue reading

Out of the Darkroom and into the Closet

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There are many fine portraits of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, but this one is a bit special. It was taken in Papua New Guinea in 1974, when the country was soon to celebrate its independence, and it captures the … Continue reading

Photographing Papua New Guinea

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Today when I look at all the beautiful photos of Papua New Guinea on the internet, I can see that a great many of those digital colour images are vastly superior to the black-and-white print photos that Australian expatriates like … Continue reading