My Culture, my Pride.

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No-one can teach you how to be a Melanesian, the unspoken nuances we intuitively know – it is flowing in our blood, the blood of a proud people, warriors, headhunters , refined over thousands of years.

Our culture grounds us in our environment, for it was built for us and and suits us and it served our ancestors and is still serving us today. In our domain, among melanesians, we can maintain our own –  the Sepik is as good as New Ireland is as good as Enga and so on.

On a bigger stage, our culture is as good as any in the world. We can proudly take our stand with all other cultures in the tribal council. We are survivors, for we have survived as one nation made up of a thousand tribes.

But the fact of the matter is that the western culture has taken over the world. Their domination of the world is very thorough that all other cultures must be westernised to even register as a nation.

The western way of life has merits and demerits. The thrust of the western culture is to homogenise all cultures – from clothes to language to unit of transaction. Cultures are judged harshly for not fitting in. For instance, the nations of the world are ranked by the height of their stash of cash. If your stash is small, then you are a failed nation. But what is money to cultures who have no need for it? The western culture seeks to perpetuate their criteria –  a criteria shaped by their  value system.

The demise of our culture is perpetuated further when we  shun our culture as ‘kanaka’, because we have been brainwashed that ours is primitive and the glamour of the West is the standard.  In our  haste to fit in, we are found wanting because we will never become ‘westernised’ enough.

But the fact remains, our culture is our identification marker, suitable for us and it defines who we are. Our culture can only be as strong as we make it to be.

Our challenge now is to give prominence to our very own culture regardless of pressures from outside.

When people come to our land, let us show them that we are proud of our culture because it is our identity and it is worth the prominence of place we give it.

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What legacy are we leaving for the grand kids?

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Mother and child fishing on the Lake Kutubu in the Foe and Fasu Tribal Land. Kutubu, Southern Highlands Province, PNG

In our haste to pimp our short lives on this earth, we have altered the value system and the balance that has preserved nature for millions of years. What kind of future do we envisage for the grand kids, when we race to build jungles of concrete, steel and glass? How are we helping the future when we create artificial food, color it and store them in cans? What indeed is the life we want for our descendants when our actions show that nature conservation is dirty and primitive and concrete jungles are modern and fashionable?

The human at home in his natural environment depended on nature and was sustained by  the resources in nature. From hardware needs, to medicine and food and spirituality – all from nature.

The economy of nature was based on sharing  surplus. The demarcation of roles and responsibilities and the specialization of clans and tribes nurtured the barter system. Man bartered for things he did not have with things he had in surplus.

The ability of human beings to control decay rates at whim testifies of advanced brain development. This power to stave off wrinkles, disease and death and create life in test tube has infused men with a sense of arrogance and reckless power. The ability to cement, brick, glass and plastic inventions into eternity makes him forget that life is a cycle and that we all start dying at birth.

The base instinct of man is dictated by the selfish gene.  The selfish gene is an atheist, it has no empathy nor morals.  The selfish gene, drunk in his own powers is concerned with perpetuating itself at all cost. Self, family, clan and tribe – that is his circle of trust. The controls put in place by society and culture to ensure co’operation, exists only within his circle of trust. Anything outside is enemy.

In his greed, man has also hastened decay rate of nature.  Man is razing thousands of years of old forest in a blink of an eye and slaughtering octogenarian elephants and rhino to make earrings and bangles. Digging and drilling to pimp his short life – to dress it up – to make life as useful as a chimpanzee all decked out: alas, we forget that  only 1% genetic material separates humans from chimpanzees. We are but glorified chimps so who are we trying to impress?

Environment conservation and environment annihilation are on the extreme ends of the continuum of human survival. In the course of living, we tread the fine line between overuse and sustainable sustainable use. Greed has blurred the line in favor of hoarding for one over preserving for all.

Human beings need to put life and living into perspective,  to acknowledge that death is inevitable, that we are sojourners.  We came from dust, to dust we will return to become worm food. What then is our legacy to our future? What kind of philosophy are we passing on.

It is indeed a paradox: the selfish gene is short-sighted – hoarding now by destroying the incubator that will grow more for tomorrow. While we hoard, have we considered, what the guarantee there is that the future will embrace the values and the treasures we hold dear today?

The best gift for the future is pass on a respect for life. We cannot control the future,  the best we can do is give them a planet that is living. Give them elephants and zebra and birds of paradise. Give them forests and lakes and coral reefs.  But, plant a seed of respect for nature in their minds then give them a benefit of  a doubt that the seed will grow and become a tree.

Indeed, conservation conversations are philosophical in nature. It is about the careful examination of the interdependence of man and nature. It requires that man identify and own his role in space and time.conservation efforts require a sincere commitment to life and living where the only ego is the one that is happy to see life flourish..

 

A new paper on the Tumbi Quarry landslide in Papua New Guinea

*** on the Tumbi Landslide in 2012

A new paper, Robbins et al (2013) has examined the triggering processes responsible for the Tumbi Quarry landslide in Papua New Guinea

Source: A new paper on the Tumbi Quarry landslide in Papua New Guinea

Prioritizing Emergency Relief

Adaptive capacity (AC) is a latent property of communities which is activated by crises.  AC imparts resilience to communities so that they can withstand a disaster or negotiate a favorable change. The higher the AC, the higher the resilience of the community.

In 2016, we started brainstorming a scorecard for early communication from disaster areas by identifying dimensions of AC that makes communities resilient to natural hazards.

Our product was after the work of McLanahan & Cinner (2011) on fisher communities in West Africa. The model is built in anticipation of adverse environmental impact. The resulting scorecard was used to plan intervention.

AC is defined as the flexibility with which communities can cope with changes.  The dimensions of AC that is measured in  communities (i) flexibility to switch between livelihood strategies (ii) Social organization (iii) Learning – recognizing change and taking advantage of the change or adapting  (iv) Assets – the resources to draw on in times of change.

Data would also be collected on the ecological system. The environment is a big factor in the AC of developing communities because this is where local communities harvest resources to use and maintain a livelihood. Since humans live in the environment, there is a need for coupled actions that simultaneously govern resource use and build capacity in ways that do not degrade resources.

The final product with be a graph as shown. The graph plots environmental health against the human capacity to adapt to change.

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Figure 1 plotting environmental health (EH) against human adaptive capacity (AC) (source: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/adapting-to-a-changing-environment-9780199754489?cc=us&lang=en&#

A – When both environmental health (EH) and adaptive capacity (AC) is low, the environment and the human beings need relief (also assistance). The environment needs to be recovered and then there is a need to build human adaptive capacity

B- When EH is high but AC is low, build AC of the people but comply with the protection of environment

C – When both EH and AC are high – preserve and enforce the environment protection and manage the AC

D – When EH is low but AC is high, then it is time to protect and recover the environment but there is room to experiment and increase adaptive capacity

Social adaptation occurs on different scales (a) individuals or social groups (b) governments. Intervention will require nested efforts. At the very top of the nested effort is the international community, followed by the government, then the sub-national government and at the core is the local scale where the project is happening.

This scorecard is for local leaders at the local government level. This will allow them to send information that is objective to the relevant relief planning centers. The planning center will then be responsible for interpreting the information and mobilizing subsequent disaster response.

Reference

https://global.oup.com/academic/product/adapting-to-a-changing-environment-9780199754489?cc=us&lang=en&#


Who are we?

The Menggeyao Morobe Consultancy (MMC) is a local consultancy that specializes in information management as a pathway for building communities to last. We collate, translate information and make the knowledge accessible for development.
Building community initiatives on robust information and knowledge is same as building a house on a solid foundation.

Commemorating 500 years of reformation in Papua New Guinea

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Flags at the 3oth Synod at Heldsbach Finschhafen, Morobe Province.: Lutheran Church flag, the PNG flag and the Morobe Provincial flag. Photo Tanya Zeriga-ALone

This year 2017, marks the 500th year since Martin Luther, a German monk and doctor of theology was excommunicated from the Roman Church at that time for suggesting changes  based on the Bible. Through study, Martin Luther was convicted by these four gospel truths: Scripture alone, faith alone, grace alone and Christ alone: salvation is a free gift from God  given to those who seek after it  in faith and cannot be bought or achieved through good works.

Martin Luther’s purpose was clear – to correct the erroneous teachings on sin  and salvation and to  take believers back to a faith as was intended by  the forerunners of the Christian faith.

Martin Luther’s followers are called the Lutherans. Protestantism was born from this action in history. Protestants believe that only Jesus is the head of the church.

The Lutheran Church was in existence for over 3 centuries by the time it arrived on the shores of Papua New Guinea (PNG) in the late 1800.  PNG was a dark and unknown place at the turn of the century – tribal fights, sorcery, payback killing were common. Isolated in their own little worlds, Papua New Guineans were animists, believing that spirits controlled their life.

The gospel arrived with Reverend Johannes Flierl, a Neuendettelsau Missionary from the Kingdom of Bavaria, Germany.  The gospel in PNG began in the Finschhafen and Madang area and spread into the rest of Papua New Guinea. As it was in the days of Luther, the gospel liberated people from the fear of the unknown and freed multitudes from the power of spirits and death.

The pioneer missionaries both local and expatriates paid a price for the freedom we enjoy today. In those early days, missionaries risked their lives for the sake of the gospel. They crossed tribal boundaries, brokered peace between tribal enemies.  These pioneers also uprooted their families and moved them far from the security of kinsman – all for the sake of the gospel.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of PNG (ELCPNG) of the 21st century grew out from the work of the Neuendettelsau and Rhenish Missionaries from Gemany. When the World War II reached the Pacific in 1942, most of the early German missionaries were repatriated. After the war, the Lutheran Churches of Australia and America were tasked to reconstruct the church, which the parties did together as the Lutheran Missions New Guinea.

It was in 1956 that the indigenous church was formed and called the Evangelical Church of New Guinea (ELCONG). The first Bishop was Rev. Kuder from the American Lutheran Church.

It was in the 1970s, that the ELCONG changed to ELCPNG. The first indigenous bishop was elected in 1973 and since then, the church has been run by the nationals. At the 500th year of reformation, the ELCPNG has had 30 synods.  The current ELCPNG Bishop is Reverand Jack Urame.

Earlier this year, the ELCPNG celebrated 131 years off Lutheranism. The ELCPNG is the second most popular church in PNG with 1.2 million members out of the 8 million population.  The ELCPNG is made up of 17 districts. These districts are further grouped into circuits, parishes and congregations is the lowest church unit recognised by the church.

The freedom to worship we enjoy today  is because this reformer broke the chains of oppression that kept people in slavery for lack of access to the truth. The message of hope and freedom in this act of reformation is timeless – it was real then, as it is now.

Papua New Guinea’s position in the reformation history is similar to the parable of the Labourers in Matthew 20: 1-16. We are like the worker who was recruited at 4pm to work in the garden only to get paid same wage as the man who started work at 7am. We are privileged to be born at a time when the gospel is free. We have not sacrificed for the gospel, no blood was shed like in the days of Luther.

The gospel may be free, but we are faced with new challenges. In this age and time, the church is under pressure to conform to the standards of the world.  Fatigue has also set in. As one of the last workers in the field, maybe we are called to re-evangelise the church. Maybe with our youthful exuberance, we are called to keep the 500 year old flame alive into the future.  May we seek Gods will about our place in the reformation story.

As we celebrate this momentous occasion let us remember that reformation is not just an historical event rather it is process of continually walking in faith according to the word of God. Reformation in this day and time is about testing passing trends against the timeless wisdom in the bible. We as individuals as well as the body of ELCPNG must step up and take our place in the reformation story.

Amen.

 

..on educating girls

DSC_0240When you educate a girl, you educate a nation.

When you give opportunities to a girl to evolve to something higher than her current state, she inevitably raises everyone around her to that new standard.

Her man or any potential male out there wanting her attention has to raise their standard to meet hers.Same for other women in her life, be it girlfriends, aunties, mothers. And when she has her own family she raises them up to the standard she has been exposed to. She has become a role model.

Change happens just like that – one female at a time and when more women get an education, it totally lifts up our game.

If you have a daughter,niece, granddaughter – champion her education and personal development. Your investment will not be wasted.

Celebrating the life of a great man.

We thank you for your life. Hero in life as in death.
Rest in Peace Larry Orsak.

Lifework Larry

To the many friends, family, colleagues and students of Larry Orsak:

It is with the greatest sadness that I have learned of the passing of my dear older brother, Larry Joe Orsak (15 October 1953- 6 July 2017) in Papua New Guinea at the University of Technology campus, Lae.  From Albert Schram, Vice-Chancellor, I have learned that the cause of death was stroke/heart attack. Larry was 64 years of age.

The forestry department will be organizing a traditional “haus krai” for Larry, from Monday 10 July to Friday 21 July. For those who may be unfamiliar with PNG culture, here is a thoughtful article on how that takes place:

http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2012/06/the-naked-truth-about-death-in-png.html

From Lae, Larry’s body will be brought to his adopted village of Baitabag in Madang for further ceremonies and final burial, the transfer from Lae to Madang to happen on or about 20 July.

There is absolutely no question…

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We Need Champions

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Paradise High School Graduates 2014

We need champions and role models in our society today.

Most of us are first generation since PNG gained independence. We are the leading edge of change. We are the cutting edge in our journey from Stone Age to colonialism to independence to integration into this post-modern era. The future generation depends on our example. What examples are we setting?

It is easy to go with the flow, to stick with the familiar because the familiar is easy and requires no effort to maintain. Mediocrity requires no sacrifice.

Growing beyond the familiar takes hard work. The mental and emotional effort is as taxing as physical labour. Effort that makes you question yourself to reveal the authentic you; effort that makes you push back the doubts that you may fail and to embrace the chance that you may just make it.

Growing beyond the normal requires you to turn up when all you want to do is go back to sleep.  Growing means believing in the possibility of your dream, when other disbelieve you. It takes guts to push against the world to make space for your dream.

You fail but you keep striving because you know who you are and you believe in your dream and you know that only you can make that dream come alive. It is a lonely road, but, such is the price for the beauty of your dreams.

The world is looking for champions. Champions that keep breaking the glass ceiling of mediocrity to reach for the stars that beckon whoever wants to go for that wild ride. After all, your destiny is what you make it.

The future is watching. Their possibilities are tied to our destinies. We stood on shoulders of champions, the future need us to lift them up to see possibilities beyond our destinies.  Can we lift them any higher than ourselves?

 

 

Finding myself in history

If she were alive, she would be 102 years old this year.   The year on her graveyard marker says that she was born in 1915. I imagine a tiny babe swaddled in bark cape and laid on a bed of moss.

Other aspects of her life from 1915 remain a mystery to me.  I cannot begin to picture her growing up, the games she played, her duties, her diet, her adornment and the other details.

According to history books, the turn of the century was the dark ages for PNG.

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Zia Warriors early 1900s. Source: Lutheran Church Archives

Professor John Waiko, one of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) educated elite – a Binandere man, describes warfare, cannibalism, payback killing, and sorcery in my part of the world around the time my great grandmother was born.

My people, the Zia tribe held prime land along the Waria river, Morobe South Coast. My people were fierce warriors who defended our land from other hostile tribes.  These other tribes include the Binandere, the Mawae, The Suena and the Yekora.

A few decades earlier, the German and the British and Dutch, oblivious to the existence of the thousands of tribes, had drawn lines all over the island of New Guinea and were enforcing their colonial governments and disbanding “hausmans”  aka tribal parliaments.

The “hausman” that could not fight their own battles were looking for allies. That included accepting the colonial government in a hope, the guns of the colonial masters could help them fight their battles. The self-sufficient tribes initially rejected all colonial advances. But eventually succumb to the colonial powers.

While she played with her toes and looked into the sky from the comfort of her “bilum”, I wonder if my great grandmother saw aeroplanes because the airplane was already invented before she was born. Kodak products were routinely used to take color “snap shots”. The air condition, the escalator and the roller coaster were features already in existence in the West since the early 1900.

Around the time, she was born, Albert Einstein had completed his paper on the General Theory of Relativity.  And Adolf Hitler was a young man – a soldier in the World War I.  Micheal Leahy was a teenager: Leahy and his team of explorers and prospectors would be responsible for opening up the highlands to the world in the 1930s.

The West had transitioned from the industrial revolution and was at the end of the modern era around the time my great grandmother was born.

But she know that?  Did she care?

Two things of significance happened that seem to have shaped PNG.

First, in less than 100 years, PNG has been forced to assimilate a new culture – the culture of our colonists. We were forced to adopt the new way of living without understanding how the Western culture was shaped.

Our rank in the world near the bottom of the pile is based on judgement meted us on criteria we have had less than 100 years to adopt  – criteria which took hundreds of years to develop.

Second, the power centers of our tribes aka the ”hausman” were disbanded. The dissolution of the “hausman“ resulted in a loss of power and education for our warriors. Our warriors lost the pride to defend our ways and our land and resources.  And what more, our men lost their potency because without a “hausman” they moved into women’s house too soon.

According to my elders, the death penalty was the order of the day when the “hausman” ruled. There was no individual rights, there were only clan and tribal rights. Your allegiance was to your clan and tribe. Outside of it was death.

It was rough and dirty, but order was maintained. Births, initiations, adulthood, marriages, death all had a place and were celebrated. Diseases, deaths, and uncertainty were all part of life.

Fast forward time to 2017, PNG a construct of colonialism, has survived as a united nation for 41 years. But what identity are we projecting to the other nations of the world? Are we a united nation of warrior tribes or are we a tribe of weaklings looking for allies?

All the power we need to take back our pride as warrior nations is inside us. Just take a look in the mirror. Unfortunately, all mirrors have a perspective. All the colonial mirrors need to be smashed and ground to dust, same for religion, and for aspects of the outside cultures that bring more confusion than solutions.

What then, should be our true reflection? Look beyond your mother and your grandmother (or your patriline). Seek the image of your great grandparents and back.  Consider the stock you are born from.  Consider your tribe of proud warriors who fought all their battles for survival. Consider their honour and pride and resilience.

Where we are right now in space and time is a snapshot of the long walk our people have been on since our ancestors became custodians of the land we call New Guinea.  The walk will continue even after we are dead and gone. The lives and times of our ancestors is our history, and in time we will also become history and our descendants will judge us accordingly.

They will judge us for our betrayal to our warrior way of life. Indeed, we erred when we accepted as time zero the time Whitman stepped on our land; we erred when we accepted the colonial story about us as our story; we erred when we accepted that we are lesser people because it is a challenge to fit into an alien culture. We think that here and now is play school and that real life is after we have mastered a culture. While we tarry, our story is being written.

Cultures die when we lose pride in the ways of our ancestors. Cultures die when we undermine what we are and give up our place in time.  When culture dies, we lose our land, we lose our families and we lose ourselves.

Change is the only constant in the world and we will eventually evolve, but it should be on our terms.   Given so much that has happened, do we have time to salvage our history and pride?

My oral history takes me about 300 years back into my matriline. I am taken back 300 years of resilience. When I put my life into perspective, the 102 years since my great grandmother seem like yesterday and my 40 years of living a blink of an eye.

I am the fourth generation since my great grandmother, but the first generation since PNG became a nation in 1975.    The realization that I am as old as the history of my tribe but also as young as my nation is liberating.  I have the ancient wisdom of my land in my blood, but I am also educated in the ways of the West and can participate in the technologically advanced life in this post-modern era.

The life we are living is not our own, we are to defend the legacy of our ancestors and pass that spirit on to our descendants. Are we living up to our warrior spirit? If not, then, go home and dig your roots beyond your great grandmother and put yourself in perspective. Only then, can you set your priorities going forward.

When you find your place in history, ensure that this becomes the legacy your next generation builds on.

matriach

The Matriarch 1915 – 1970

Were traditional Papua New Guineans conservationists?

LSC1 (220)This essay is based on three papers. These papers document practices  of seasonal hunting and harvesting and protection of certain species of importance to three communities in Papua New Guinea.

Kwapena (1994) documents the hunting practices of the Moapa people of the Mashall Lagoon,  Central Province. Foale (2002) records the “tambu” reef system of the New Ireland while Silitoe (2001) provides insight into the hunting practices of the Wola of the Southern Highlands.

In two of  the three case studies, the authors documented that a hunting ban was imposed periodically on their  respective communities.

The Maopa people in Mashall Laggon Area, Central Province had a hunting ban that would last over three to four years.

On the coast, the “tambu”reef involves the closure of fishing on a particular stretch of coastline for a specific period of time, usually from a few months to a year or in some cases a few years. The closure was quite often associated with a death within the clan that controls rights to that stretch of coastline and is a ritual component of a cycle of feasting associated with that death.

The hunting ban would then be followed by an intense period of hunting, where even the grassland is burnt to force animals out into the open (Kwapena 1984).  In the “tambu” reef, the accumulated stocks of many species, particularly benthic invertebrates are then removed, often with alarming efficiency (Foale 2002).

The local knowledge of these people was directed to identifying patterns that maximise capture success. They did not show concern for aspects of  biology (recruitment etc) that conservationists are interested in.

In the case of the Wola,  Silitoe (2001) observed that the Wola people, who were not “enthusiastic” hunters, would at times expand high energy to capture high value animals like cassowary and wild pigs for customary activities. From his study, Silitoe (2001) observed that in their hunting sprees, the Wola treated the forest as having …” an infinite buffering capacity”  to their destructive hunting activities.

Melanesian’s exist through relationships, and these relationships needs to be maintained all the time.  Value has been placed on nature to facilitate these social relationships. Resources are stockpiled only to be harvested to facilitate social transactions and to maintain relationships and alliances (Silitoe 2001). The hunting spree with the Maopa of Marshall Lagoon was to strengthen and reiterate family relationships (Kwapena 1984). Tambu reef was also a means of stockpiling resources, often for a specific purpose, such as a feast; and had nothing to do with maximising and sustaining yields for conservation (Foale 2002).

So, how did people coexist with nature for thousands of years?

Silitoe (2001) proposes that unintentional conservation  may have been achieved indirectly because these traditional knowledge and practices were created in conditions of small population, large forest covering and richer biodiversity and hunting tools which were less deadly.

Fear of spirits also ensured sacred areas became refuge and replenishing grounds for wildlife.  For instance,   most of these cultures attribute their hunting capacity to spirits and not human hunting skill. In this instance, hunters let game go if they miss after a few attempts, taking this to indicate the spirits are discontent.  Beliefs that spirits governed everything contributed to unintentional management of resources

This system however, will not protect nature which is now threatened with with pressure from, high human population densities, new and efficient hunting technologies and a readily available market for wildlife.

That is why the indigenous people of Papua New Guinea must learn the concept of conservation to ensure that food security and the currency for maintaining relationships  is available both now and into the future.

References

Foale, S. (2002) Commensurability of scientific and indigenous ecological knowledge in coastal Melanesia: implications for contemporary marine resource management strategies. Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Working Paper No. 38

Kwapena, N. (1994). “Traditional Conservation and Utilization of Wildlife in Papua New Guinea.” The Environmentalist 4(7): 22-29.

Sillitoe, P. (2001). “Hunting for Conservation in the Papua New Guinea Highlands.” Ethnos 66(3): 365-393.

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