A celebration of chiefs

Normal, Weekender

The National, Friday 18th November 2011

BLAMDA village in the South Wosera Local Level Government, East Sepik, came alive with cultural singsing, display of 20 wakens and the opening of the Setaka community hausboi or culture centre last Saturday.
Waken in the Wosera dialect refers to the head dress worn by men who are initiated into their clans and tribes with special powers, authority and recognition as chiefs.
The ceremony was made possible by Wosera-Gawi MP and vice-minister for Climate Change and Forestry Ronald Asik who allocated K20, 000 towards the ceremony.
The village “big mark” or ceremonial area was packed to capacity as the colourful wakens from Gwaiwaru, Moundu, Kalainge, Kitigim, Kumunukum and the host village danced around in circles with friends and relatives.
Asik was also initiated and made a chief by relatives at Blamda which coincided with his 46th birthday last Saturday.
Scores of people from across the district including South Wosera president Simon Gura, North Wosera president Isidore Kamlabi, district education standards officer Jack Malken, police and division of agriculture and livestock officers attended the ceremony.
The ceremony started with an opening prayer, flag raising and national anthem by Setaka Primary School students followed by speeches from the guests.
Asik acknowledged the participants at the ceremony and called on his people to maintain and preserve their customs and traditions by continually staging cultural activities.
He said Papua New Guinea was unique in its cultural diversity and the Abalam children of Wosera-Gawi district should learn their culture in order to be recognised as members of their respective tribes.
Asik had been very supportive of cultural activities in his electorate of Wosera-Gawi and had initiated a number of festivals and hausboi including Setaka to market his people’s culture to others including tourists.
The villages that already have hausboi in operation are Sarangwandu, Kuanumbandu, Stapikim and Setaka.
Asik said the days of travelling to Wewak to sell artifacts are over because tourists will now come to their villages to visit the hausbois and put money into their pockets.
The old and the elderly were also cautioned to refrain from selling artifacts and traditional items of cultural value but to instead charge a fee for viewing and photographs taken by tourists.
The district under the leadership of Asik has partnered with reputable tour operators, the tourism office and the Tourism Promotion Authority to market the people’s culture and is confident of selling the commodity nationally and also abroad in places like Vanuatu, Fiji, Europe, the United States and Germany.
The joint district planning and budget priority committee had also resolved to make money available annually for cultural activities in the district to promote, enhance and impart valuable cultural knowledge to younger generations.
Jack Malken, the district education standard officer, acknowledged the school children’s presence at the ceremony and praised them for their initiative to learn their culture.
He said our culture had been absorbed into the curriculum under the new reform system of education and all school children are now required to learn their culture as part of the formal system of education.
The ceremony ended in the afternoon with the opening of the Setaka cultural centre and a combined performance by all 20 wakens including Asik to farewell over 1,000 people who came to witness the day’s celebration.