Picturesque New Guinea/Chapter 13



JUST now, as I write, the village of Hanuabada (Port Moresby), is one scene of life—truly animated human nature from the oldest man to the youngest bairn kicking in its net cradle, rocked by an elder brother or sister to still its impetuous nature. Who can sleep amidst the thud, thud, of many native hammers (long sticks) used in ship-building, or the slap, slap, of native trowels used by women in the manufacture of native pottery? Now, what does it mean, whence has it sprung, and what object has it? Categorical, no doubt, but to an old stager easily answered.

The village within Port Moresby counts about 1,000 inhabitants, 700 pure Motuans, and 300 Koitapuans. The former are seamen and travellers who came in past ages from the distant west, and settling first at Taurama, Pyramid Point, notwithstanding all its barrenness, and living principally on fish and kangaroo, not objecting to an occasional dog. The generations rolled on, and the newer ones think a better place can surely be found than that barren, rocky hill, and they emigrate to this commodious harbour, perhaps the most central of all centres in New Guinea. Plantations were made on the hill sides, and in the somewhat more fertile valleys, on land belonging to a once powerful tribe of sorcerers known as the Koitapuan tribe. Now this Koitapu tribe to the present day is of note on this coast. Once they lived well

Plate XLV.


Reference page 92.

Black and white photograph of a row od buildings in a forested area; with men and women sitting slightly off centre.
Black and white photograph of a row od buildings in a forested area; with men and women sitting slightly off centre.
back near the Koiari, owning then as now all land back to the Laroki river, the Koiarians claiming all on the other side. They are a people much feared because of their wonderful power over sun, rain, heaven, and earth; north-west and south-east monsoons, these especially are theirs. Only yesterday one old chief, an arrant blackguard from Padiri, marched through Hanuiibada, and some occupant from nearly every house came out to meet him with a present, a stick of tobacco, a tomahawk, an arm-shell, or some other article of value, so that he might be friendly to the proposed trading expedition. They are no doubt the real owners of the soil, and it may be some day in a Land Court presided over by a British judge, they will have much to say. By no conquest do the Motuans live here, but simply because the Koitapuans allow them, saying, "Yours is the sea, the canoes and the nets, ours the land and the kangaroos; give us fish for our flesh, and pottery for our yams and bananas." What a power these Koitapuans have! midnight spirits travel at their will, strong men are laid low by them, canoes on distant travels never return because of them, burning sun, cracked earth, dried up bananas, and harvest-time and famine all belong to them. Who will not try to appease their wrath, to gain their favour? He is dead now, my old friend, Taru, but I remember well how all along this coast he was feared, and how from far and near they came with offerings to him. But worse than anything mentioned is that often they cause murder, or commit it to further their dark designs. To hang a few of them may yet become necessary, although since the missionaries have come here they are not so exorbitant, and the others are not so blind. As readers may know, the Motuans are at Pari, Hanuabada, Poribada, Lealea, and Manumanu, in Redscar Bay, a tribe numbering about 2,000 only; their dialect is spoken by about 5,000, and they being the people of commerce (the Britons of New Guinea), through their dialect it is possible to communicate with nearly 20,000 people. The Koitapuans are to be found tacked on to the Motu tribes at Pari, Hanuabada, Poribada, also Bocra and Lealea on the east side of Redscar Bay, and inland at Padiri and Kevana, and numbering about 2,000, very much cut up into parties. I have never heard of the two tribes fighting, but often the Motu tribe being the stronger has helped the Koitapuan against their enemies, the Hulans, who come from Hood Point.

The Motu natives are the traders, theirs is the sea. Now it is interesting to go back to the origin of things. How interesting it would be to know to a certainty all origins. But we do know from out of a very distant past, so distant that all we have comes through cobwebs of many, very many generations, a kind of myth which many present day scholars accept before fact. Well, myth or whatever else, here it is. Away, far away, in those hoary ages, a canoe with several men on board went out fishing. They lowered their net and all dived; one, named Edae, near a large rock, in which there was a cave, and into which he looked, was seized by the spirit of the deep and kept, only his toes being left above water. His companions wondered what had become of him, and on looking around saw his toes, and at once tried to pull him up, but could not succeed. Letting go, he disappeared entirely, and they returned home disconsolate and crying all the way. When the sun was near its dipping hour, and the tide was low, they again returned and found Edae's whole foot above water, and had no difficulty in getting him on board, and laid him in the canoe, crying bitterly over him as dead until near the shore, when he opened his eyes, and told them what he saw, heard, and was told to do. It was a large cave in which a great spirit dwelt who caught him and kept him down, so that when they tried to pull him up by the feet the spirit just pulled him right in and told him not to fear, but to wait patiently and hear how the hungry north-west season might be got over—have a season of sacredness, then cut large trees, dig them out, and when finished lash them together, then get masts and sails, and when all is finished take all the pottery the wives and daughters have been making on board, and sail away to Eelema.

On his arrival at home he told the same tale to his wife, and at once he became sacred. His brother-in-law, Nohokinoboki, a Koitapuan, opposed his going and said, "Why leave? I have plenty of yams, some in the house for the North-West season, and some to plant, but Edae must go and get some sago?" He told his wife he should be

Plate XLVI.


Reference page 93.

Black and white photograph of sailors on the deck of a ship, looking off to the right.
Black and white photograph of sailors on the deck of a ship, looking off to the right.
long gone, and on no account to give him up. Months passed and he did not come; the men who accompanied him left their wives, hoping to be soon back, and because they did not return when expected the wives got married to others, and began to forget Edae and his party. But his wife never gave him up, and she encouraged her daughter-in-law to hope on. At last she had a dream, and saw Edae, who told her he was leaving Eelema on his return journey. She waited a few days, and then early one morning sent the daughter-in-law up to the highest hill to look away to the westward. On her return she reported something on the horizon beyond Redscar Head, but could not say what it was. Later she returned again, and after sitting awhile felt convinced it was Edae, and the next morning was up early. The daughter-in-law again ascended the mountain, and this time returned with the thrilling news that it was Edae, and the lakatoi was near. Both took sticks and beat on the floor, and shouted for joy. The people came running to know what was the matter, when they were told Edae was coming, was near, and that very day would anchor near his house. During the time Edae was gone his wife never allowed the fire to go out, did not go to other houses, had nothing to say to other people, and never bathed. Now she broomed the house, set things to rights, and had a bath, then she anointed her body and dressed in her best. The lakatoi was nearing, and she gave orders for a canoe to be got ready, and getting into it she was paddled off, and when alongside the lakatoi beat on the bulwarks and shouted, "All your wives are married again, I only with our daughter-in-law waited till now." The men were struck dumb, and felt much pained indeed; Edae was full of delight, and on seeing his wife broke forth in song.

Receiving some sago the wife returned, and set to cooking for her lord when he should land. Great was her joy on landing, and rehearsing all she heard and reporting what she saw. Sago in quantities far beyond her power to describe, and all the men looking well. Soon the lakatoi anchored, and after the visiting was got over, Edae landed amidst the plaudits of the assembled villagers, another Columbus returning from an unknown region. The first part of the night he spent in rehearsing in a loud voice from his house the incidents of the journey, the people he was amongst, their kindness and anxiety to have him remain. He wound up his discourse by an attack on the faithless wives, who were terribly ashamed.

In the morning his sister-in-law, Nohokinoboki's wife, came to get sago, but he sent her back to live on her yams. Day after day she returned, until at last he relented, and told her to tell her husband, and not to be so bumptious in future. When her husband tasted the cooked sago, he could do nothing but praise Edae and condemn himself.

This journey to the West for sago has been continued ever since, and at present great are the preparations. Long before daylight may be heard women making their pottery, and a walk through the village is indeed interesting. Some women are just returning from the clay pits with heavy burdens of clay of various kinds, black, red, yellow, brown. Some are spreading the clay out to dry, others are pounding with a stone the dry clay, some are damping and kneading it, and mixing it with very fine sand. Salt water alone is used. Others have a lump of clay, and are beginning to make various kinds of pottery. Some have theirs half finished, others quite finished, while others are burning theirs in large fires, and staining them with a dye made from a mangrove bark. Every woman has her private mark, and marks everything she makes. Here is a list of their pottery:—

Hodu = water vessel. Ituru = small cup.
Uro = large cooking vessel. Kebo = basin.
Nau = dish for serving Kibokibo = small basin.
Ohuro = large cup. Kaeva = pot with rim.
Keikei = small pot. Tohe =

The men are busy getting their canoes together, work all day, and at night pooling them well out where the man first proposed the trip, and who is captain, sleeps with a few others. Long ago the captain has been secured. In the morning at sunrise the lakatoi is brought in to have her work carried on. Four large canoes are lashed together, then bulwarks are made of leaves from the stemless palm sewn together, and well fastened with long poles, and caulked with dried banana leaves. A stage is made all round, so that the sailors can work her without getting inside of the bulwarks. Masts of mangrove, with the roots at right angles, are stepped on to the centre, and large sails made of mats all sewn together, and shaped like crabs' claws, are fixed for working with ropes made from the bark of the large yellow hybiscus. The anchor is a large stone made fast with long canes, sometimes 100 fathoms in length. Fore and aft are small houses, where the captain, mates, and boatswain sleep or smoke. A day or two before leaving they sail about the harbour with all the young swells, male and female in killing costumes, on board, and then they have a hearty song, with drums beating, and bodies swaying, and the ladies' petticoats flying about. The wind is favourable, the cargo on board, and the pole out a mile or two to the eastward: then set sail and away, whilst friends at home remain to weep. With a fine breeze following fast, the men most worked are the helmsmen, three or four of them with large paddles standing aft whilst the others are drum-beating and singing the following Hues taught Edae by the spirit:—

Bokibada oviria nanania
Ario visiu na verianbro
Boebada eraroi nanai
Trope immanai ale Dauko
Eela lao mauaro diaia
Pinuopa diaid iauoro nairiuovox
Eela lao melarara memem.

There are many others, but the above is sufficient. When the port where bound is reached, they are received with great delight, pigs and dogs are killed for the reception feast, after which they distribute their pottery, to be paid for when ready to take their return journey. They sleep on the lakatoi, the shore people cooking them food and taking it to them. They ascend the rivers, cut down large trees, and make canoes of them to take home laden with sago. On the return journey they will have as many as fourteen and fifteen canoes for one lakatoi. Now they go wealthier than formerly, taking with them tomahawks, knives, bead looking-glasses, and red cloth. They return with many tons of sago, which they dispose of to Tupuselei, Kaile, Kapakapa, Hula, and Kerepunu, these natives paying them in arm-shells, and other native articles. They keep very little for themselves. During the time they have it the whole settlement smells of nasty sour sago, as they like it best when it ferments, so keep it damped in large uros.

A list of the places they visit for sago may not be out of place—Oiapu, Lokea, Lese, Motumotu, Moneave, Karama, Namai, Silo, Pisi, Kerema, Keura, Vaidala, Ileran, Orokolo, Maipua, Ukerava, Kairiu, Keropenairu, Kaiburave.

The great trade on the coast and inland is pottery, the natives very seldom making a native oven like the Maories of New Zealand and South Pacific. On the east the most of the pottery is made on Teste Island and the islands of the Engineer Group, that is traded as far west as Orangerie Bay.

Their pottery is much finer than that west, but perhaps not so strong. Travelling west, we find the next pottery makers in Arona chiefly at the large village of Maopa. They supply as far east as Mailuikolu (Toulon Island), and send a little to Kerepunu on the west, but the great supply for Kerepunu and Hood Bay come from the Motu tribe. The Hula natives bring cocoa nuts to Pari, Port Moresby, Porebada, and Boera, and in exchange load up their canoes with earthenware of various kinds.

Pottery is made at the above-mentioned places, also at Manumanu in Redscar Bay, and Delena in Hall Island.

An article of very great value to the native is the ornamental toea or arm-shell. A few small ones are made on this part of the coast, but the best come from the east, as far away as the D'Entrecasteaux Group. They trade them for pottery, &c., to the Dauni natives, whilst the Dauni natives sell them again to Mailuikolu for sago, dogs, &c., and these to the Aroma natives for pigs, dogs, and canoes. The Aroma natives trade them to the Hood Bay, Kerepunu, Kalo, Hula, Papaka, and Kamari natives for birds' plumes of various kinds, and these again to the Motu natives for sago, and the Motuan to the Eelemaites for sago

Plate XLVII.


Reference page 104.

Black and white photograph of two men either side of a coffin draped in the Union Flag, surrounded by more flags, on board a ship.
Black and white photograph of two men either side of a coffin draped in the Union Flag, surrounded by more flags, on board a ship.
in bulk, weighing 2 or 3 cwt. From the time of the return of the trading canoes, the Motuans keep collecting things until the next season. The most industrious woman, the one who cultivates best on the plantations and makes the most and best pottery, is sure to have her husband's praise, and she "has of the fruit of her hands, and her own works praise her in the gates."

It is to be hoped that in the future when a civilized power governs these children of nature, they will not do away with the present occupations and systems of trade, and let us hope the missionaries will remember that Anglicising is not Christianising, and Christianising should have little to do with Manchester. For myself I think the natives with a little bit of loin cloth better off far than our whitewashed Europeanized, shirted and trousered natives. Leave them alone in their trading and their pottery, and leave them alone on their lands. Why deprive them of these?