By PAUL MAIMA
MARRIAGE is a sacred initiation that binds a couple to a lifetime relationship.
It is a moment of joy for the man’s family as a new member is added to them.
But for the girl’s family it is heartbreaking moment moment of tears as she is sent away to another tribe.
As a parent you are sending a piece of you away. The emotions, sorrow and the questions that fill parents minds and the challenges that their daughter will face with her husband and tribe from far away are mind-boggling.
On the other side of the coin every daughter that passes through a proper marriage with her husband is a great achievement to the parents and her tribesmen. In Simbu culture the bride’s parents and relatives slaughter pigs, gather food stuff, display clothes and bilums to give to the groom’s family.
They gather during the night till dawn before the event takes place and sing or karim leg as it is popularly known in Simbu. The next day the bride is attired in traditional costumes and presented to the groom’s family after eating the cooked belly fat of a cooked pig.
Then speeches follow, food given and the bride pride is charged by the girl’s relatives giving the groom’s families specific time to pay.
This traditional marriage ceremony, commonly known as the exchanging and eating of the pig breast between the newly-weds is common amongst the six districts of Simbu. This cultural practice has been long maintained throughout the generations.
It continues to find its place in urban centres, particularly the capital city where the Simbus migrate to and live.
Two Sunday’s ago many families and friends were privileged to witness the traditional marriage ceremony between Babra Ninkama of Balgaulin clan of Egeku tribe in Gumine and Willie Wie Tine of Bamin Kowale clan of Salt LLG in Karamui-Nomane District at the Manuti Block in Moresby North East.
The marriage was also witnessed by many prominent leaders from Simbu including Member for Karamui-Nomane and Minister for Labour and Industrial Relations Jaffrey Kama, Member for Moresby North East John Kaupa, former CEO of Eda Ranu Henry Mokono and former secretary for National Planning Dr Peter Kora.
Barbra Ninkama is a granddaughter of former Member for Gumine during the house of Assembly the late Ninkama Bomai. Her uncle Bill Ninkama also served two terms in Parliament as Member for Gumine. She is the first daughter of Jack Ninkama. Her mother is from Eastern Highlands.
Girls preserving their virginity till meeting their husbands in either through a church, Western or cultural marriage are rare these days. However, in preserving this very significant culture of the South Simbu people the Ninkama families in Port Moresby decided to do a traditional marriage ceremony.
During the marriage more than 100 cartons of beer, 16 pigs, food, clothes and traditional bilums were presented by Barbara’s families to Willie’s families.
Many speakers during the event spoke of the importance of maintaining the culture as well as preserving the sacredness maintaining the Melanesian way of marriage that has been distorted by Western influence which results in domestic violence and broken marriages.
Mokono, who an uncle to Barbra said good cultural practices of PNG have to be practised and preserved in this modern digital era.
“Our marriage cultural ceremony is unique. We must not allow western or modern influences to destroy our identity. This celebration is worth more than the amount of food, drinks, pigs and money we are contributing and spending. It is indeed about the unity and the true virtue of marriage that the husband and wife must create to have a better family,” he said
Bride price distorts marriage values
Mokono also emphasised that the culture of bride price has distorted the essence of marriage and girls can be referred to as a commodities and that has set a bad precedence for the future of the bride.
“When men know that their women are paid off with bride price they can sometime turn abusive. We have seen many such cases that provoke violence against women and girls in our societies.
“Marriage must bring unity. This is the true purpose in this marriage between Barbra and Willie. We must help the bride and the groom to build their families rather than expect too much from them,” he said
Barbra’s father Jack Ninkama has seven brothers – Yoba Jeff, Nelson ,Bill, the late Waiyal, Jeremiah, Bomai and Thomas.
The Ninkama tribe line is now extended to the Keriaiwaku clan of Salt-Nomane through the marriage of their daughter Barbra.
Thomas Ninkama, while addressing the groom’s relatives on behalf of the bride’s family, said their daughter must be respected and embraced with their hearts now that she would be leaving them and find her new place and identity in a new tribe.
“ Our marriage cultural ceremony is unique. We must not allow western or modern influences to destroy our identity. This celebration is worth more than the amount of food, drinks, pigs and money we are contributing and spending. It is indeed about the unity and the true virtue of marriage that the husband and wife must create to have a better family.”
“Barbra Ninkama is like a seed from the Ninkama family that we are now releasing to be sown in the hills and mountains of Keriaiwaku in Salt-Nomane. May her offspring bring success and prosperity to the new environment and family that she will join and build up.
“As her fathers and mothers are all here in this ceremony to release her to you Willie and your families, you have seen with your eyes how much effort is put into this traditional marriage ceremony.
“As a tradition you are expecting us to charge you pride price. But we will not do that. We would like our daughter to have a good life and family. It is a precedent that Barbra is setting for others young girls and daughters. They must be accorded proper traditional marriage so that our family bonds and ties continue to be strong. And the marriage must be respected and honoured for a better family,” he said. Jeremiah Ninkama, a geologist spoke on the relationship that their father the late Bomai Ninkama had with the Salt-Nomane people and how this marriage further bonded and solidified that friendship into the future.
“We are glad to see one of our daughters follow the footsteps of her grandfather Chief Ninkama Bomai.
“Our father had many great friends from Salt-Nomane district when he was serving as the Member of Gumine during the House of Representatives. Some have passed on while many are still alive.
“Today this marriage is more than the exchange of gifts and items. It brings back to us memories of the past. It is indeed a reconnection of the Ninkama history with the Salt-Nomane people as much as the Ninkama families have treasured its people and culture. In this marriage between Barbra and Willie the family ties between the Gumine and Salt-Nomane people will live on,” he said
In response Simon Kaupa, a former high school teacher, said marriage must be bonded with Christian ethics and principles.
“We are glad to welcome one of the Bomai Ninkama family members into our family as we all gather today. Marriage is ordained by God. He blesses and raises families. The marriage today between Barbra and Willie has to be embraced through a godly Christian principle.”
The traditional marriage ceremony that was initiated by the Ninkama family was indeed a lesson to be learned particularly for young men and women. Relatives from both sides of the bride and the groom took pride in such ceremony. Most young men and women today get married on emotions rather than with true affection.
Women regenerate humanity therefore marriage must be treated with purity and respect.
Domestic violence against women and girls is a result of poorly planned or illegal marriage.
We are seeing many problems in many marriages today suck as broken homes, illegitimate children birthed as a result of negligence or polygamy.
While charging bride price may be good for some cultures, it is a burden for the groom’s family. In the Simbu culture the cash amount can range from K10,000 to K100 000, 40-50 pigs and food stuff. Many parts of the Highland do the same.
But the highest bride prices in PNG, ranging from K100, 000 to K400,000 in cash and food stuff worth more thousands of kina are paid in the Motuan community in the NCD and Central province.
But we must all be reminded of the wise words of former CEO of Eda Ranu Henry Mokono to treat marriage with integrity.
Our girls must not be seen as a commodities but treated with respect and dignity as persons.
The true essence of marriage is for the newly-weds to find happiness and unity in their relationship.
God created the woman out of the man to be his helper to multiply and subdue the earth.
Women play an important role to usher and nurture the next generation. The destiny of humanity’s future remains in our women.
Men play their part in exploring that mystery of human creation. God put his final touches to the formation as we are told in the Bible “Before you were formed in your mother’s womb, I knew you.”
It is through that sacredness of marriage and the birth a child that the name of a family, clan and tribe lives on.
- Paul Maima is a freelance writer.