By DANIEL KUMBON
EXPERIENCE Enga’s Ancestral Salt Pond is the theme for the 39th Enga Cultural Show bound to be one of the best organised extravaganzas ever.
It will be flavoured by participation of an Australian indigenous Torres Strait Islander dance group from the Northern Territory.
Not only that, a local cultural group from the Foe tribe of Lake Kutubu will participate as well to re-enact the oil-for-salt trade that existed in olden times between the people of Enga and Southern Highlands.
The Lake Kutubu oil extracted from the kara’o tree that they call Digasa oil will be exchanged for traditional salt at Mulisos Yokonda salt ponds – the exact location and original source where salt was manufactured and traded with people from many parts of the highlands region.
Another attraction will be the Tasting Enga Food Tourism event which will involve a dinner where local dishes will be served for the first time to VIPs, tourists and other interested people.
This event will take place on the evening of Friday, Aug 9 at the Enga College of Nursing at Sopas where patrons will be expected to pay for this rare culinary experience trialled for the first time in the province.
This year’s Enga Cultural Show has been marketed widely by making it the first cultural festival in PNG where both international tourists and locals alike can purchase show tickets online from anywhere in the world.
Enga Governor Sir Peter Ipatas made the announcement recently at the Tourism Promotion Authority head office in Port Moresby where he also revealed that a group of native Australians from the Torres Strait Islands would grace the Enga Show to be staged on Aug 9-11.
The Aboriginal group will be on a cultural exchange programme to share traditional artistic skills and knowledge with local artists at the Take Anda Cultural Museum or House of Traditional values in Wabag.
The discerning visitor will have that rare opportunity to witness how the two different cultural groups interact to showcase their skills to each other.
The indigenous Australians will see how Enga people in the past made human hair wigs, birds of paradise headdresses, deadly bows and arrows, fighting shields, wooden digging sticks, styles of building their homes and much more.
They will see the elaborate displays in a modern building situated in a narrow gully carved out by the noisy little Kop Creek.
It has continued to flow there before people settled here in the province with their rich cultural heritage.
The Take Anda holds traditions and valuable information on cultural principles, practices and values that made for a harmonious and prosperous society in the past and still relevant today.
Also on display are the famous Ambum stone, the Yupun figure, sacrificial stones, traditional salt, life-like photographs of different species of Birds of Paradise, youth initiation ceremonies, men taking part in tee exchanges or pig killings involving hundreds of animals at huge feasts taken at the point of first contact.
The over 400,000 Enga people speak the same language but it is evident many aspects of their culture vary from one to another of the five districts.
The dance steps of the people, the way they are dressed and types of local songs they perform are all different as is evident both at the Take Anda and show ground.
And of course, it is all spiced up by colourful singsing groups from nearby Western Highlands, Jiwaka, the Huli Wigmen and groups from other parts of PNG have surely captivated the imagination of visitors.
Enga is the only province where their rich cultural history is taught in all its schools to help students draw knowledge and wisdom from past traditions and apply it in their lives.
In 2017, then American ambassador to Papua New Guinea, Catherine Ebert-Gray launched two important text books that are now used in a pilot project across grade 6-12 in the province in a milestone event.
One of the books, ‘Enga Culture & Community, Wisdom from the Past’, is an ethnography that provides an overview of Enga culture including stories, songs, poems, kongali (words of wisdom), nemongo (magic formula), drawings and early photographs.
The second book is the ‘Teachers Guild for the Enga Cultural Education Pilot Program’ and provides recommendations, questions and activities to help teachers integrate material into the curriculum for Grade 6–12 subjects.
The two books are the result of 30 years of hard work, research and study on Enga culture by Professor Polly Wiessner, Akii Tumu and Nitze Pupu.
The pilot project is the first major attempt in PNG to teach the rich and fascinating oral traditions that have been passed down from elders to youths over so many generations.
The project was designed to teach these values as well as cultural history to students as part of Enga history.
It is also hoped that the reference book will be widely read and enjoyed by the general public because learning and understanding are lifelong challenges.
“Engans are not a people if they don’t have a history,” says Professor Wiessner, a professor of anthrophony at the University of Utah, who has been conducting research in the province since 1985.
It was realised that the rich oral traditions and cultural knowledge that used to be passed on in the men’s and women’s houses, known as Akalyanda and Endanda, were no longer being transmitted to younger generations.
Rapid change meant that the Enga people were experiencing change rapidly resulting in the loss of traditional frameworks for cultural education like rituals and feasts like the Sangai and Mena Yae that had brought people together were disappearing.
In 2014, they asked the provincial government to support a proposal to teach cultural education in schools and it was approved by the provincial education board and the provincial executive council.
An example of what will be taught is birth control.
It was said that people should not breed like pigs, but space their children between three and five years to have time to care for each child properly.
Men retired to men’s houses at night and women stayed in women’s houses with girls and boys under the age of eight. Women did not resume sexual relations with their husbands until their infants stopped breastfeeding at about three years.
Sometimes serious quarrels broke out when women wanted wider birth spacing than man. But social norms supported woman’s rights to decide. Magic spells, poto nemongo were used to avoid pregnancy, however there were no effective means of birth control.
Here is the poro nemongo magic spell to avoid pregnancy:
Wanaku naa poto puu lao pato pelyo,
Tatali puu lau pato pelyo
Dilya potai, mama potai.
Niki langapu, kana langapu.
Wanaku naa ingi potai, kondonge potai,
Dilya potai, mama potai,
Aikena puu lao pato pelyo.
I, this girl, will be like a poto vine
Will go like a tatali vine
Be strong like dilya wood,
Be strong like mama wood.
Cheat the sun, cheat the moon.
I, this girl, stomach be strong,
Intestines be strong.
Be strong like dilya wood,
Be strong like mama wood.
Be strong like aikena pandanus.
The Enga people greatly appreciate that their rich cultural heritage is taught in schools, displayed at the show and preserved for the benefit of future generations.
And visitors who come to this year’s show will take with them memories of a dynamic people who embrace their rich cultural heritage with both hands up in the mountains of Papua New Guinea.
Note: For more highlights and information on the 2019 Show visit firstname.lastname@example.org
- Daniel Kumbon is a freelance writer.