Hiri history should be remembered

FIVE generations ago the first ever Motuan lagatois that arrived at our Purari people’s Mailu Pari were from Porebada Village led by a man named Kaupara.
This year the Motuans will celebrate the 47th Hiri Moale Festival but the essence of the Hiri voyage and Hiri trading history is yet to be fully appreciated and or acknowledged by the Motuans and their leaders.
It is most heartless and dishonest that history can never be put into perspective by declaring others who were also part of this great history.
The involvement and participation of the Elema and the Iare Purari people of Gulf made the Hiri trading history.
What about Hiri mo ale?
Hiri mo ale in Iare Purari language when translated to English will mean “to cut down another or new tree”. To repair the damaged lagatois, making the long and dangerous journey across the Gulf of Papua Hiri mo ale or cut another tree became the most famous Iare word for the visiting Motuans at that time and so Hiri Moale is never a Motuan name or word – it was an adopted name.
I was in form one or grade seven at the boys-only high school at De La Salle Bereina and on a term holiday in Port Moresby when the first ever Motuan Hiri Moale Festival was held in 1972. At 64 years of age and 47 years down memory lane, I can still recall the atmosphere of joy and excitement written on the faces of every man, woman and child of the Elema and Iare Purari people on that historic occasion. These people were connected to the Motuans by that history of Hiri mo ale, pu and poi’i trade.
The glimpse of the near-nude young Motuan women so perfectly tattooed and swaying their grass skirts in the morning Port Moresby heat, to the beat of the kundu drum at that first ever Hiri Moale festival, distracted my young mind.
And 47 years was enough time for me to see the other side of the coin and I now see something that I had failed then to see in my youth.
For those who have so bravely exposed their bodies in the name of Motuan culture and the Hiri voyage history they can now stand tall and hold their heads high among this generation of Motuans. They have set the tone and foundation for new generation of Motuans to promote and showcase Motuan people’s culture by way of taking direct ownership of Port Moresby’s premier cultural event.
For me it was a very proud day in 1972 when the first Hiri Moale Festival was celebrated because the occasion also marked and recognised the Hiri voyage history where my Iare Purari people have contributed and participated and became inseparable partners and part of that experience and history.
Not a festival for Motuans alone
We cannot continue to promote the cultural aspect of the Hiri voyage without touching the historical aspect. It may mean having to involve the Iare Purari people and the Elema pople of Gulf to enact the whole Hiri history.
Future events should include sago making demonstrations, joint cultural celebrations and display and maybe inviting the whole Motu-Koita Assembly for a tour of the land of the living legends, Purari to visit the Iare Purari people’s old ancestral Mailau Pairi village where the trade started.
Growing up in my Iare Purari village of Maepaio, in my generation was the most privileged because around the evening fire, as bed time stories our older folks would tell us of these great stories of the Hiri voyages and trade that went on between my people and the Motuans.
Supernatural powers involved
The success of this history is beyond the wisdom of men, the work of human hands and knowledge of human mind. Outside powers of dark forces and power of the supernatural were called into play to direct and control men in the whole endeavour, I was told.
The supernatural intermingled with men on the issues of everyday life. This is a fact of our way of live that we cannot deny in the 21st century. Over these years, each Hiri Male Festival brings me closer to my ancestors and those brave Motuan forefathers who met on that first ever Hiri voyage. It is a puzzle that still fascinates me. I have tried to fully understand the very basic systems or signs used to communicate by the two completely strange and new ethnic groups meeting for the very first time.
The arrival of the very first three lakatois laden with the Motuan pottery and the brave Motuan forefathers at Iare Purari village was not by coincidence. My people were continuously told of the coming of the lakatois and the Motuans by a certain member of the village who was possessed by supernatural powers. So the people were expecting the lakatois and the Motuans.
A month in advance this individual was given visions of the lakatois and announced to the people in a loud voice. This continued to the very day and time the lakatois arrived in the village. The messages were relayed to the people were short and precise:
“They are coming – coming in an inade bapea (a refence to a lakatoi, symbolising it as a green grasshopper with a pointed nose of feelers and flappy wings).
“They have light complexion and they are coming in peace. They bring no harm. They have long soft and woven hair. They are coming in pace. Bring no harm to them.”
Difficult journey
In that first Hiri voyage to the area, my people called the Motuans the maideia maideia. That could have been mistaken for a Motuan word mailaia meaning to bring.
During that long trip the lakatois laden with pottery also took a beating by the elements. Two of the three lakatois were partly damaged and required urgent repairs. The Motuans knew it was impossible to make a return trip in a partly damaged lakatoi laden with tonnes of Purari sago. The weight of which far exceeded the weight of clay pots.
One thing was certain; any attempt to make a return trip in a partly damaged vessel would mean a complete disaster the result of which would have been fatal and costly. The idea of foregoing their prized cargo that they had travelled a long distance to get was painful to accept. For the Motuans, the sago was a prized cargo they must deliver safely to the families at all cost.
At the back of their minds, the Motuans were far more prepared for any situation to save their cargo. The sago was a badly needed foodstuff to sustain families in the critical time when food was scarce.
Birth of Hiri
Through sign language my people were able to convince the Motuans that the magic Iare word of name to solve their equation was Hiri. So the Hiri name was born right there at my ancestral Mailau Pairi and was adopted to be used for the voyage and the trading aspect of it by the Motuan people.
In the Iare Purari people’s language the name Hiri would mean a tree or log.
Each year during the Hiri expeditions to Mailau Pairi the Motunas would live with my people for up to three months or so while the people went about to prepare sago for the Motuans to take back. While the women from the village made sago, the men would take their Motuan counterparts up the Purari River to cut the selected trees (hiri) and float them down to the village where repair work on the lakatois were carried out.
Iare Purari people were the main suppliers of sago to the Motuans during the Hiri expeditions and while we have remained silent in the last 47 years, we now want to come out and challenge the members of the Motu-Koita Assembly, Gulf Provincial Government and the office of the NCD Governor to start talking with our leaders to have us involved and participate in any future Hiri Moale activities and festivals.
Our leaders who can be contacted to discuss this and develop strategies are: Pasto Reuben Akia whose number is 7337 0448); Jacob Kairi (7488 3174); and the writer (7912 7671).
We cannot overlook the importance of the Hiri history because it will be most improper. The history must be put into its proper perspective.
We are not convinced that Hiri trade was just a part of a much larger-interconnected trade network in the direct and indirect distribution of sago and pottery.

  • Eric Eria Baii is the public officer of the Purari Development Association Inc.


Kroton Hela Wigmen’s long journey the final

Hela Wigmen players celebrating a try in the preliminary final against JPG Waghi Tumbe. The Wigmen won the game by 30 points to 10 and will meet the Lae Snax Tigers in the Digicel Cup grand final this weekender at the National Football Stadium – Nationalpics EKAR KEAPU.

Board chairman ANDY HETRA reflects on the long journey of Hela Wigman football team in the 2019 season.
THE journey for us this year has been tough and grueling.
We have come a long way to be here at the final game of the year. When the 2019 season started, we had to start from scratch when our core players departed for Hunters and greener pastures.
We had to go back to the roots in Hela to find talents by hosting the Unity Cup in Koroba over the 2018 Christmas period. The journey took us to Mendi, then to Enga playing the Ipatas Cup with our best select side. The journey further brought us to Port Moresby where we had our final selection trails fielding teams from different suburbs of Hela boys in Port Moresby including our select side from Hela.
The journey came with trimming and fine-tuning players to play at the elite level. We had a dream of unearthing unknowns to become knowns. A dream to make unknowns to become Hunters and Kumul players and to have a better life.
This wouldn’t be possible without our sponsors, Kroton, a subsidiary of Kumul Petroleum Holdings, Hela Provincial Government and Ipwenz Construction. They are the reason why the Wigmen brand is playing in the last week of the competition and uniting a whole province.
The start of the season wasn’t good for us. Over time, with the right training regime and discipline, the system systematically refined and trimmed down the players. What we have are the best and we’re so fortunate that the players have found the right form at the business end of the season with the guidance of Andiki Andrew and Charlie Wabo.
Hela is a province that is torn by both man-made and natural disasters. Amid these calamities, Hela is a tribal nation that has the wit and stamina to persevere. The Wigmen brand has given us hope just like how we live our own lives back in Hela.
The Wigmen Rugby League team is composed of players not only from ethnic Hela origin but all throughout PNG. We are a band of brothers that binds a tribal nation. We want to sell the message of hope and unity through the Wigmen brand. We want to showcase to PNG through the Wigmen brand that Hela is prepared to work with all our brothers and sisters throughout PNG not only in sports but in all facets of life to make PNG a better nation for all.
We are still the underdogs. We respect the Tigers being the minor premiers. They are a quality side.
But before we put on jerseys for the biggest showdown yet against Lae Snack Tigers this Sunday at the NFS, we pay homage to our ancestors for preserving the Laitebo to power PNG, we pay homage to our great grandfathers that walked the breath and length of PNG to be plantation labourers to build the economy of PNG, we pay homage to our political pioneers who fought hard for the Hela brand.
We will be carrying your dream in our heart for the 80 minutes and you will be in our thoughts.
We know your spirits will be with us. We won’t let you down.
Best wishes to Konton Hela Wigmen and Lae Snack Tigers. May the best team win in the true spirt of rugby league.

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