Taste of tradition in farewell


BEHIND every great man in our history is an untold traditional part of him that contributes to his success, Leo Konge, a traditional leader from East Sepik says.
Konge was among a group of 33 people from three different parts of East Sepik – Wosera-Gawi, Murik and Chambri Lakes – that came on a charted plane to Port Moresby last week to participate in the one-day farewell of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare.
They came with traditional items which they claimed were used on Sir Michael prior to his entering politics which added significance to him being the founding prime minister.
While the politicians and other Papua New Guineans farewelled Sir Michael politically, they farewelled the Grand Chief in an all-traditional way.
The Murik people (Sir Michael’s people) came with their traditional canoe called Muntai which they claimed their fathers gave to Sir Michael when he first stood to contest the first election as a token of leadership to lead this great nation.
“When the canoe was first presented to him, it was like the fathers have released and given him the permission to go out and lead our nation and people,” their leader Leo Boeno explained.
He said the steers on the canoe represented Sir Michael leading the country forward in the last 42 years.
“The sail on the canoe represents the guiding principles which Sir Michael uses to lead the nation.”
Boeno said and the masks that were carved on the front and back of the canoe represented the guiding spirits of the ancestors that walked with Sir Michael providing him protection as he led the nation until he retired.
As part of Sir Michael’s political endeavours, he visited Chambri Lakes while travelling around the province campaigning.
“When he came up to the village, he stayed at my house so the chiefs gave him a traditional stool to sit on and he received traditional blessings that he would be the first to head our nation,” Chambri leader Konge said.
The stool which they called Yaramari Awinap was preserved for the last 42 years and was brought out and taken to Port Moresby just so Sir Michael could sit on it once more to mark his retirement.
“Since he had sat on it and became the country’s first prime minister, it is time, he sits on it again to mark his time off from politics,” Konge added.
He told The National that the stool would be taken back home and stored away in their sacred spirit houses (haus tambaran) for their future generations to see.
“We will not give it up or sell it to be put in museums or what not,” he said.
Meanwhile, the people from the Wosera-Gawi district came with a traditional farewell song to farewell the grand chief.
Their leader Soni Jimmy said the song was usually performed in the men’s house after their young boys went into their sacred house for initiation into manhood.
“We performed the song to mark the end of the ceremony,” he said.
“So with Sir Michael’s farewell in politics, it is a significant event in the history of us Sepiks.
“So the song is a very special song which we do not perform unnecessarily but only on very important occasions.”

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