Transition time for Utul

Islands, Main Stories

MOSELEY Utul is 14 years old and comes from Kunakunai village in the Kokopo district of East New Britain province.
He has made history by being the first Tolai boy to be initiated into manhood outside his traditional village, away in Morobe province.
Just outside Lae over the New Year’s weekend, he was awakened from his early Saturday morning sleep and taken to a secluded place where he was told he would go through the rituals of being transformed from boyhood into manhood.
It is a tradition that takes months to complete.
However, because he has to attend school, it was decided that the initiation be conducted during school holidays.
Family members and relatives gathered to witness the final part of the initiation process which saw Moseley being led armed with a traditional war gear – the club and other possessions of manhood.
The women from his father’s clan – Marmar – turned up in force to accompany him to the main ceremonial arena where his mother’s clan – the Pikalaba – waited anxiously.
Moseley was seated under a specially-erected traditional hut and his parents laid out his traditional shell money.
Relatives from both sides also poured out shell money for him.
The shell money belonged to him and would help him prepare for future obligations, such as the price for a bride.
At the ceremony, his father also paid some shell money to the mother’s relatives for the right to decide on what happens to the young man in future.
Tolai elders explained the ceremony meant that Moseley could no longer play with his sister like a little boy.
He now has to conduct himself as a man – disciplined, well-behaved and uphold all the traditional customs of life as an adult who respects others as well as himself.
Moseley also cannot marry a girl from his own clan.
Tradition forbade him to do so.
Tolai elder and lawyer Sialis Theodore said the ceremony was important as it allowed the Tolais in the Morobe province to show and teach their children their traditional customs which they must uphold in their lives.
Mr Theodore said Tolai children living outside their own village environment needed to learn the disciplines of life and respect for themselves and others, as well as respect for their own customs and traditions.
The initiation ceremony was performed on ancestral ground.
However the Tolai community in Lae felt they were comfortable in performing the initiation on Morobean soil, Mr Theodore said.
He said the ceremony taught young boys about what religion had already taught them about respect and discipline.
It also taught the young men to respect others and live with other Papua New Guineans as one community.
The ceremony has already aroused the interest of other Tolai fathers in Lae who are already talking about putting their own sons through the same initiation.