The first time we saw a plane we thought it must be the largest bird in the world. When the white men came we believed that they were the spirits of our ancestors who had arisen from the dead.
50 years later, the plane is now the easiest way to travel in Papua New Guinea. The country lies to the north of Australia. We are flying to Tari, to the land of the Huli, better known as the Wigmen.They live in the remote Southern Highland province. They have been here for 600 years and most probably for 1000 years. The Huli are one of the largest ethnic groups in Papua New Guinea..
A bride for barter
How has life changed in the 50 years since their first contact with the white man?
The Huli do not live in villages, but in scattered homesteads. Their gardens are delineated by trenches and high walls.
Ana Alua, together with her female relatives is mourning her husband who died recently. They are members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Since joining the church they had no choice but to sleep together.Something unimaginable in the past.Changes followed quickly one after the other here.But the husband is still the head of the family. A widow’s life is not easy.
Question: The father died recently, the kids are there, how are you looking after them? (= Huli translated)
Ana Alua: I will carry the heavy load by myself.
Question: How will you manage with the food and money for your seven children?
Ana Alua: Yes, I will see and do all activities by myself. Before, both my husband and myself, we saw and did things together.
Ana Alua: Since that my husband is dead, now I will have to see, do things and stay into the future.
Before the missionaries came, the bodies of the deceased were placed in wooden boxes on raised platforms. Six years later the bones were removed and placed in a small open container.
Among the Huli unresolved disputes dating back years are sometimes settled in a bloody manner.
Michael Eakali: It’s a pay back killing.
Dr. Pramat Lal Das: Four years ago the clan of this people killed another one, so they paid back. So they killed this person in the market
This is what we call pay back killing, a killing in the highlands. You see the leg here. He was stabbed.
Once he fell down they hacked his head, his ear, here and also in his backside and here.
Now the dead man’s clan will take revenge, and it will only stop if the numbers of dead are equal or if someone offers compensation.
Policeman: Some pigs and money as compensation. And then there will be an end to the war and they will forget about it.
Dr. Pramat Lal Das: But they still will need compensation to end it. Not the police or the court, this matter cannot be solved by the police or court.
Tari is the most important town of the Huli. The first white settlements appeared here in the early fifties.Before the Second World War Papua New Guinea was a German and British colony, it was only afterwards that it came under Australian Colonial rule. It gained its independence on Sept.16 1975. Indepedence heralded even more radical changes to the lives of the Huli: they were suddenly spirited from the Stone Age with its subsistence agriculture and traditional values to a market economy based on a cash payment for contract work.There are now 350.000 wage earners in Papua New Guinea out of a population of 4,2 million.
Mr. Nanani, manager of the supermarket: This is the only supermarket. It serves 40.000 people in the Huli region. Things in here are too expensive. Goods go up. Its is because we have to take a cargo from LAE to here, so the trade price is too high.
Yes it is too expensive, all the goods are too expensive.
Life in Tari was good up until the regional elections of 1997. However, now people live without electricity, telephone, a postal service and banking facilities, and all for different reasons.The main road is unsafe due to ethnic tensions. The banks and post offices were closed because of the continual danger of being held up and robbed, by so-called Rascals. The main cables of the electricity supply were cut during excavation works in 1998.A nearby gold mine has been closed down.Telecommunications have broken down through sabotage of the landowners because the government has not paid out the agreed compensation.
A generator supllies power to the hospital.
Luan Nasnas: Good afternoon, you came to the Tari hospital for a familyplanning meeting.
John and Jenefer have a baby now.To avoid another one they can have an injection, pills and a plastic tube (condoms)
There must be more than six or seven children. That is a large family, they regard it as a large family.
Normally in a polygamy family you will see more than 20 children. But the children will come from different mothers.
Luan Nasnas took part in a research project set up by the Department of Health. Some 50 health workers carried out this study among more than two thousand people in villages and settlements. They discussed their problems and expressed their feelings and views on the changes in their lifestyles.
The Tigibi Traditional Production work group consists of trained villagers who have become health educators in their village. They use song and theatre to promote health awareness.
Performers: Let's fight AIDSLet's fight it todayLet it be known
Sister Jenefer AgobeI started this group to bring Aids awareness to this community. They don’t know how aids is affecting the lives of people.
The health department alone cannot carry out the programme. But these groups can help build the links with the community. They can be between the community and the health staff. Where the health staff cannot get in, our awareness groups can get in. We have 18 confirmed AIDS cases in this region.
Performers: In our body, you can see how blood workers playing the role of security guard. Man is healthy, his body is good because his blood is working properly.
No sickness has touched him, even the one we call AIDS Disease.
Aids is attacking and destroying the army of protective blood.
It is killing all the protective blood and the wall of security through connectedness is been destroyed.
The man is now vulnerable to any sickness disease that may come his way.
Now the sick aids himself will enter the mans body and will completely distroy and terminate what’s left of his once healthy body.
Aids will take away his heart beat and therefore kill him.
The weekly Friday market in Tari is a popular place for the women to socialise.For the older population, its pigs that signal a person’s wealth. The price of a medium-sized pig is between 350 and 500 Euro. In marriage, most of the bride’s bride-price is paid in pigs. That’s why young Huli who are paid in cash have to convert their wage into pigs if they want to get married or settle disputes.
The Big man or the traditional leader is a self-made leader whose power comes through personal achievements. He is a orator and he settles disputes. He assures his popularity by offering very reasonable loans and donating gifts.
The Huli wear both western and traditional clothes, depending on their mood.
Playing darts for money or soft drinks is very popular.
Around 70.000 Huli live in a territory covering more than 2.500 km². Talks are underway to give the Huli their own province.
M.S.Ten, Section Commander: We are just monitoring the area and conducting an awareness campaign so that people of Huli understand why we are here and what we need from them to bring peace to the province.
People are in mourning and have already been waiting a few days for the body of a former member of the National Parliament to arrive.
Traditional leadership, once an efficient system to which people turned for guidance, information and resolving disputes is crumbling away
At present different types of leadership co-exist, based on money, education, church structures and politics.
The performer who chants for the deceased has a certain status among the women. Female relatives join the woman in wailing during the burial ceremony.
Man: We are here to see the arrival of the late Maripa Makipa, his body comes from Moresby, for the funeral home; he comes with South West AIR, from Moresby; we are here to take his body home.
Late Marepa Makipa was a leader of the province and of the country, as a whole he has been electected twice 10 years ago, as a parliament member.
Luan Nasnas: Things that have changed rapidly, expressly: education is one: more o children attend school, expressly in that in the past the female doesn’t go to school, only males go to school.
But now the females are in the schools.
This catholic school was set up by foreign missionaries in the late 50's.
There are some 800 different languages in Papua New Guinea.. Pidgin is the language of trade. It’s a mixture of English, German and local dialects. English was introduced at the same time as Pidgin in the Huli country, but it took longer to make any sort of impact.
Boy: Whether we go or whether we stay, we learn English so that we can understand to speak to other white people coming out form “overseas”. Searching for a job, to talk to the manager
Girl: We want to learn and also become somebody in the future To do a job, so that we will be able to benefit our own lives.
The man has to pay if he wants her to come and live with him. And he has to pay a dowry in the form of pigs. He gives them to the woman’s relatives so that he can have close relations with the woman’s family and relatives
If you go to school the price will be higher. They will tell the parents to pay the school fees.
Luan Nasnas: Most of the people told us we don’t have life without money, Money is important to travel, to buy their schoolfees, everything is money.
Luan Nasnas: You cannot get those things with pigs or exhanging the store. With money only you buy things.
Marriage is male-dominated, in that men are free to take as many wives as they can afford. Women, however, are allowed only one husband at a time.
Tayali’s father: Tayali O(now the pigs are available.) You have staying with me for long time.Your beard had matured, you have strong shoulders, now it’s time to get married.Considering the number of pigs we have, they are enough for a bride price, so we look for a woman.
Ask Alini to come here ?
Tayali: Alina, father is calling you
Tayali’s father: Alina come and sit there.We will get a women.
He has refused a women I choose for him, saying he has a girl friend Nenesi(nancy) I understood, his girlfriend
Go and see her.Ask her what the amount of the dowry is ?Bring her here, she can stay in your house.
Alina: Nensi’s mother, I came here to request for marriage of your daughter for my brother, and to take her with me
Father of bride: do they have the pigs already ?Alina the pigs for the brideprice are already there.
Father of the bride: The girls mother, you do have anything to say. Indicate the number of pigs preferred.Ask if they have them.The mother in law payment/toke will be there for you.I have nothing, you speak.
Mother of the bride Token for mother in law for K300:00 should be made available.Then ten other pigs, another ten pigs of middle size and the nest(rest?) of 15 pigs, will be the amount for brideprice.
A marriage can take place when the bridegroom's family has paid a considerable bride-price to the bridegroom’s family, principally in the form of pigs, ranging from 15 to 30 in number.
Nancy’s family have come to inspect the bride-price.
Tayali acquires his first wife, Nancy. His word is law in the marriage and he can do with her whatever he wants. Mistreatment and rape are not exceptional in a marriage.
Tayali and his father: The fourth pig is outside and will be brought later. Bring that pig now !
Tayali and his father: There is the fifth !Now we have five medium sized pigs.All medium size pigs and sows are there
Father of the bride: Count them all, I will give four of them to the mother's side.
Girl: Pigs are more important than the ladies; because you usually give the pigs to the girls father and mother. Without giving them the girls parents will complain :
Girl: when she was small they looked after her. Now they want something from the girl, their daughter. We were doing a hard job, we look after the children, you will take the girl to your house forever. They won’t come back. So they have to give pigs, some brideprice, to give to the father and the mother.
Girl: He never minds about the first wife.He thinks the second wife will be better than the first wife.
Girl: So he bribes for a second wife to be in the house. And than he brought the second wife into the first house.
Tayali and his second wife: Alice can we go?Lets go, we can go. We go to my place. Do you have a wife or not?No. Yes I have, but she has no say in anything
Your wife might fight me. She will not fight you, so we can go. Okay, let’s go.
Luan Nasnas: There is a lot of polygamy. Most of the men go out to the plantations, expressly to MountHagen,Lea,Moresby.They cheat their wife and the family that is left behind and they forget all about the, they stay out there, they involve in prostitution, in drinking beer and gambling. They look for another wife.The husbands tell them lies, re not married, we are bachelor man looking for a job, they join up for polygamy.
The consequences of present-day polygamy are particularly harsh on women. Polygamy impoverishes the first wife whose economic status can be compared to a divorce. As a result the rejected wife often as not seeks refuge in transactional or commercial sex. Lifting up her sarong for a bunch of bananas or some sweet potatoes for instance.In the meantime, female promiscuity is severely punished, not just with a black eye, bruises or cuts: it’s not unusual for a woman’s genitals to be burned.
Although Papua New Guinea ‘s constitution declares it to be a Christian country, it does allow freedom of religion.
Tommy Harili, Pawanda catholic churchWe revere the 10 commandments of God, because this is what says: steel not, do not kill man, no adultery/fornication; and we hold on to them because governamental law also says to respect the above.
24:40 Tommy Harili, Pawanda catholic churchWe put those things outside before we come to church services, because God’s law says after polygamious marriage, or after murder or stealing pigs, do not come near this house.If you do that you will be killed(punished). The different churches have played an important role in developing the country’s health and education institutions, but they are also responsible for the loss of traditional knowledge and culture. There are various churches active in the Highlands: the Catholic, United Church, the Lutheran Church and the Seventh Day Adventists. 80% of the Huli claim to be members of one or another of these churches. Missions have in general promoted the use of Huli; the exception being the Seventh Day Adventists. The Adventists reject everything that they feel to be bad and unworthy Huli traditions, including the Huli language and the eating of pork meat.
Luan Nasnas: Church has made changes to the family lifestyle. Once a man and a woman lived in separate houses, now they live together as one family. What we call one mattress, one pillow and one blanket.
Luan NasnasIn the very remote areas you will see a lot of men’s homes and women’s homes. There they still live in traditional fashion.
Wives live in their husband's village. Men and women have their specific tasks. Traditionally the man cooks for himself, gathers his own firewood, builds houses and clears the ground for farmland.
However, most of the work is done by women. They tends the soil, see that there’s food on the table, and look after the pigs.
A woman may own pigs and other articles of value, and is entitled to the food she grows in her garden, but she can never achieve the wealth and influence of a man.
At night the pigs are herded into a separate part of the woman’s house.She has her own house, to which her husband never comes. They meet in the bush to consummate their union.
Woman: If I went to a mens house is an invitation to death, for they will kill me or otherwise I will have to pay a big pig as a way of compensation for violation of that taboo.
According to our traditional laws, when a women becames new, we do not give food to our manfolks. We do that to ensure that our husbands do not become polluted and weak. Even with our eyes, we do not see our husbands, let alone those othermen. If me see mens face ask for pigscompensation.
During the period of menstruation, some people believe a spirit sleeps with the woman and therefore fear menstrual contamination.
Boys are brought at an early age to the men’s house. This is where they’ll grow up, where they’ll be fed and taught to be men.When a member of the community has a conflict with another member they come to blows. They fight over the three forms of possession: land , pigs and women.
Man: In this men’s house we sleep. The food that we mumu are only for men alone; not for sharing with women.We don’t talk with women.Women will not come into or near our house, but will keep their distance.
Man: Only men and boys sleep in the mens' house.Men are usually gathered here to have discussions on issues of concern, resolving of conflicts, sharing of burden by way of making payments through pigs and monetary compensation. All those are deceided and done here.
The Haroli Bachelor cult was part of the initiation process for young men. It has now vanished, forbidden by the missions. Over a period of two or three years the youngsters learned about the complexities of traditional mythology. After the initiation they where entitled to wear the red ceremonial wig.
Mr. Harabe, wigmaker: I make this ceremonial wig from two manda tenes. I got two manda tenes from two young men to make one wig like this one.
Mr. Harabe, wigmakerI have made numerous ceremonial wigs, may be 20,30 since my younger days. These I sell them for pigs and kina shells, now for money.
After 1930 there were occasional contacts with white gold seekers and administration patrols. In the late forties a plane flew through the Tari valley in search of any signs of human presence.The first permanent administrative post and airstrip were established at Tari in 1952.
First old man: We were there when we heard and saw the plane circling the area. We thought it was the stinger bee. There were lots of circling in the sky and thinking it was evil spirits, we fled for our lives into the groundcaves, stone caves.
Second old man: We saw a white thing passing by, and we thought it was a bright, shining angelic being. The elders killed pigs and made sacrifices and had a feast at that time.
First old man: We were hiding in those places for sometime. It was gone and we went back to our homes.
First old man: Then we stayed for one month, second month, third and fifteen months they came back.
First old man: He was not like us. He had red hands and legs and we where very fearful.
Third old man: When they came at that time a man named Angabaya was killed in the land of the Tuguba.
Michael Yaparia: We fought with the white men. They fought on the hill down at AMBUA LODGE. They fought for three weeks and some of them were kept, and they shot about a couple of eleven of our men.
Third old man: Salt, red ochre(paint) shells and bushknives were distributed. Land was not bought and we worked for nothing.
Michael Yaparia: I can recall that was paid for jobs done in the airport. The whole town wasn't paid! Payment was not done.
Third old man: Money should have been the right form of payment for the land. We the landowners have been talking with the government for compensation of the airstrip and the township of Tari.
Michael Yaparia: I've taken the government to court. And I am claiming this area for another 5 to 8 million . The case is still pending.
Yanari is teaching his boys some Huli beliefs
Yanari: After missonary arrival, when men die, we bury them in the ground.Why I dug out the bones and left them here.this is the reason.When my children, my wife or other members of my family get sick, then we dig out the bones of our deceased relatives.When we dig and check the bones you would see rats nesting there. One would also find ants making their resting place in the skulls.So we have to fix those things, remove the nests, clean the bones,etc., and then either our children, man or woman who were sick will get well.
He is making a bow to teach his two boys the art of archery. Huli boys are still brought up to be warriors. Tribal warfare is forbidden by the government. There are still fights between different clans, but these are settled by compensation. Compensation is an alternative way to settle disputesThe required payment is based on the severity of the act that precipitated the dispute.
Yanari’s brotherWhen you are entering the fighting zone, you have to be in this position, lift up your leg and shoot.
Yanari’s wives cook food in the mumu or pit oven.
Yanari’s brotherSee, see how far the arrow has gone in.If you are shot here in the chest, you will die.We do not aim for the leg, because it will only paralyze him.
Yanari’s brotherShow me how you use your arrow ?Lift up your leg and fire.You fired an excellent shot !
They are cooking taro, sweet potatoes, watercress and fig leaves. They steam the food in an oven heated by hot stones, which is covered over with banana leaves and earth. Pork is only eaten on special occasions.
Whereas in the past, land, pigs and village life enabled everyone to have food and shelter, nowadays people are finding it increasingly difficult to meet their basic needs. Population growth has stretched the available land resources beyond their capacity, and this is especially hard felt in the Highlands.
Luan Nasnas: We want to keep the Huli culture alive because it is better for future generations, that the children that they bear will know what happened in the past, how our sisters lived. Most of the tourists come to see the Huli culture and our government is strongly supports the fact that we have to leave our culture for the children that are coming in the future. Then they will know how we dressed, what weddings were like in the past, how we painted our faces and our weapons equipment. The marks, the signs and all these things we had in the past. If we let them die, future generation will not know what is was like.
During weekends some Haroli bachelors visit their spiritual leader for instruction. And when tourist visit they show them the secret of their luxuriant hair, from which they make their wigs.
Peter Pakaya, guide: Thank you to everybody, those who have come to Tari, but especially for coming to the Haroli bachelor house. They are all very happy to hear that many people from all over Europe come here.
Peter Pakaya, guideHe will have those sacred.of water, here water for them to drink. They drink first, then they spit back and look up, then wipe their face. When they got to have a face washing, the face can be shining and bright, rest of the water they drink and water can look after them and stay in good health. After that he has a very special magic wet.
I wish that my hair grows, as fast as the leafs of the trees and that my hair will be bright as the bird of paradise and that my hair will be as bright as the sunset.
Peter Pakaya, guide: What makes the hair grow: if you come closer you will see the leaf. This leaf will stay in, it will never come out he will never leave it.
Peter Pakaya, guide: Underneath is a frame. A very special frame: when the grows this long it will have this underneath. This helps to hold up the hair.
It takes 18 months.
Peter Pakaya, guide: This is how the Huli men sleep. Others sleep in a different way. Huli's sleep on a single piece of wood with a wooden pillow. When the hair grows much longer, the size of a wig, we will put the pillows much higher so the hair cannot touch the bed or the ground. And they cannot use an arm as a pillow, otherwise the hair will be squeezed and it will not grow. They help each other to comb their hair. They do not wash their hair.
The Huli are proud of what they call the Turis Bisnis, and the growing worldwide fame of Huli traditions. Tourists are welcome. Their photos help put Papua New Guinea on the world map.
Ambua Lodge is set on a mountainside 2.100m above sea level and 25 km from TariBoth the owner and the manager of the lodge are Australian.The land on which the Lodge is located belongs to seven clans numbering some 7.000 people. Each person owns a rock, a tree or a piece of land. It’s not inconceivable that one day they might decide that they want their land back for farming.
Michael Yaparia: They were paid and the company promised they would become partner of the company. And that has not been eventuated and also they have not put anything back into the area. Like schools, healthcenters, children's aid, fair aid agencies. Those things have not been done. They've been taking it to court the last months, and eventually sooner or later the compagny will have to pay for that.
Dressed in their traditional costumes, they entertain the tourists with a love song. The young man asks his girlfriend to wait for him until he has enough pigs to be able to marry her.
The visitors to Ambua Lodge are bird watchers and tourists who are making a trip through Papua New Guinea. They spend a few days in the land of the Huli. The exclusive round trip costs some 7.500 €.
Michael YapariaIt is getting worse because of the white influence. They bring drinks, all sorts of things.
Michael Yaparia: And the young boys think it is good, so they will practise. Looking to TV, to newspaper. But they never knew that there is bad things for them. Like taking heroin, taking marihuana, taking beer. Before ten years we never knew about the prostitutes.
Michael Yaparia: Yeah, now everybody can screw a woman. In our late customs it is not allowed when you're about 17,19,20, you're not allowed to talk to a woman. Now when you're about 6 or 7 you know …pooh....
Michael Eakali: People are building this wall because someone has died. There was an accident last Sunday: a lady was been killed by a youth and they are building this wall for protection against enemies coming to this area. That’s why they are building the wall. And at the same time it is a sign that shows that someone has been buried in that area.
Because traditional cultures and values have disappeared, an ever increasing number of young men have neither a future nor anything to do. Some turn to crime in one form or another. The old social codes have been broken, even before new ones can emerge.
The child is being cared for by Sister Jennifer of the Tigibi Aid Center.
Sister Jenefer: This child was stabbed. He and his mother were going home. Someone, some of the boys hid in the bush. He jumped out and asked the mother for money. She said she didn’t have money and she was stabbed with the bush knife. The small boy tried to escape. The boy saw him and he went after him and stabbed him. The mother died, but this boy…… The mother is dead, so there’s nobody to look after him. He’s only got one sister, but the sister is visiting her mother’s grave, so these two are taking care of him.
The female relatives of the murdered woman are in mourning dress, a grass skirt and red shirt.
Michael Yaparia: We used to have a village down here, where we used to say "PAYAPAYA", which is goodgood, like Jesus is a goodgood, he is a very good man. For example "don't go overthere, that is where somebody sleeps. Don't jumble with the firewood" Don't steal, don’t do adultry, don't kill people. Those have been here before the white people came. We have been practising that!
Early in the morning, hidden from view, the Huli men begin preparations for the "Mali dance". This dance is the hallmark of the Huli. They take care not to be seen by the women because a look from them would defile and dull their adornments.
Dancer: Birds of paradise. They are sitting in the trees. We are sitting like them and we are part of them. Yes, we used to be the birds of paradise.
They paint their faces in yellow and red patterns to imitate the bird of paradise.
The paint, They buy it from the store.
Dancer: This man. He is our team leader and he looks after us.
They have to work together to put the wigs, adorned with plumes and feathers, on their heads. The half-moon shaped wigs are made from human hair.
Teamleader: After I have spoken magic words on the water, then I will give them to you(so you can drink) so that mali will be good/attractiveMen from the other group will put magic on us, be on watch, we can put magic on them.
After putting on the wigs it's time to oil their torso.They hang "The Hale pange", the precious mother-of-pearl shell, around their necks.
The Huli organise dance competitions during inauguration ceremonies of schools and mission buildings and independence celebrations as well as during Christian and political campaigns. Besides that, they also perform for the tourists.
Before the white man came, the Mali dance celebrated the death of an enemy. In the 60’s, government officials and missionaries saw this dance as the epitome of a primitive people who needed pacification and conversion to Christianity.
Robert Agiru ,headmaster: A singsing group is opening up elementary school in here. For the last five years we haven't received anything about the education. And now, I am looking forward for the education department and the government department to look after this matters.
Fewer then 25% of the children in the Highlands attend school.
Magnificent wigs and spectacular waving plumes and brightly painted faces are not only an evocation of power and virility towards their fellow males, they also exhibit the personal charisma and the stamina of the men, and this attracts the women.
Bernard Narakobi, speaker of the parliament, summed up the present situation in Papua New Guinea as followsOur lack of personal discipline leads many among us to excessive use of alcohol and violence. Men are often too drunk to go to work. Women cannot work because they are too busy recovering from beatings by their husbands or boyfriends. Our cultural customs, funeral ceremonies, the payment of bride-prices, the system of compensation and counter-compensation exert such a great strain on our resources that nothing remains to create prosperity or to improve our way of life.