Canoe and kundu festival displays tradition

Normal, Papua

THEIR forefathers were not only fearless in war and crafty in trade but possessed adept knowledge and a valiant spirit for the raging rough seas.
The canoe and kundu festival in Alotau last week saw the sons display their same love for the sea as they chanted for waves to part while rowing simultaneously in their lopo or war canoes and the nagega, which is a kula trading canoe that can carry up to 100 people.
Culture and Tourism Minister and Alotau Open MP Charles Abel confirmed the people’s wealth of knowledge in ship writing technology as he read excerpts from his grandfather Rev Charles William Abel.
Rev Abel wrote particularly of the vaga-ue a type of canoe from Suau area which he had encountered 18 miles from the coast from his whale boat.
An exchange of pleasantries with local crew revealing a plot for the same destination began an exciting race that proved more to the skill and technology of the local people.
“To my great surprise and disgust, not only did the Papuan outsail us, but she kept much closer to the wind than we could, and when night came on she was miles ahead of us.
“I have never taken liberties with this class of vessel since,” Rev Abel wrote.
Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane also attended the event, which featured more than 50 canoes with more than 1,000 participants including those from the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.
Sir Paulias emphasised that everyone must preserve their culture and traditions while embracing change in a Pacific island society that was fast becoming contemporary.
He also urged for knowledge, rituals, skills, traditions and the obligations associated with them to be passed on to younger generations.
Renowned writer John Kasaipwalova supported this with the idea of a challenge for next year’s festival to rebuild a big war canoe called a tawelo, which was banned in the colonial era by the British government as a result of inter-tribal fighting.
He described the festival as an event that would one day make Papua New Guinea a focal point of the world.
The festival has continued to gain momentum particularly overseas much recently.
Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority chief executive officer Peter Vincent committed K250,000 towards tourism in the province and K10, 000 for next year’s festival.
He said the authority wanted to involve with a province like Milne Bay because it was well-managed.