In this Ted Talk, Terri Janke weaves her own personal story in with her reasons for ethical collaborations between Indigenous communities and researchers. Indigenous people hold knowledge that can be used for improving the planet and building sustainable economic opportunities. By engaging respectfully with Indigenous people, scientists and creative collaborators can potentially eradicate Indigenous people’s poverty, which stands at 15% of the world’s population.
Terri Janke was born in Cairns and has family connections to the Torres Strait Islands (Meriam) and Cape York (Wuthathi). She was awarded NAIDOC Person of the Year 2011, the Attorney General’s Indigenous Lawyer of the Year 2012, and was a finalist in the 2015 NSW Telstra Business Women’s Awards.
A Melanesian Myth.
This story is from Myths & Legends of Fiji and Rotuma. A students’ Edition and a collection of stories and illustration by A.W Reed and Inez Hames.
This story was written as it would be told by an orator at the fireplace in Melanesian societies. So imagine you are sitting in a Melanesian village and an orator (usually a male) will be telling this story. I have added my own illustration below.
Vegetables cooked in earth oven (umuu or mumu) are fit for men and gods only when placed in baskets with succulent steaming meat, rich and layered with fat, (bel gris in Tok Pisin). Then a man may take taro, yam or greens in one hand and a piece of meat in the other, and feast as though he were a god. In those days, the only challenge is to find an animal that can be steamed or roasted to provide enough meat for hungry men to eat. Man (as in human) decides, birds and rats are far too small.
“Let’s ask the gods”, man said.
Men gathered and started up the mountain to make their request to the gods. They were accompanied by fish, reptiles, animals, birds, and insects, all curious to hear the gods’ response.
The gods, who also love good food, were in good mood and welcomed the strange query from mankind. The gods inspected the gathering. Birds and other lives cowered and withdrew into the shadows so the gods would not see them nor pick them.
One of the gods reached out and caught a rat by the scruff of its neck and held it up. With arms and legs waving into empty air, a terrified rat cried: “Not me! Not me! Please not me! I am too small. I’m all bones and I taste horrible – please let me go!”
“Yes, the rat is too small – we need a larger animal” a man said.
“What about pig?” one of the gods suggested. “Now there’s a fine animal for you; rich and savoury.”
The pig was pulled before the gods by his short tail, and shivering before the gods, he squealed: “I’m too big! You could never fit me in one of your food basket.”
“Perhaps you are right Pig”, one of the gods said. “But you may be wrong”. Then the god instructed man: “Fill up a basket and put the pig on top so you can see what he looks like on top of the serving.”
The protesting pig was put into the basket. His legs fitted inside the basket comfortably, but his snout stuck out at one end and tail out the other end.
The pig gave a broad smile and said smugly to man: “What did I tell you?”
The rat who had escaped earlier, ran forward and quickly twisted the pig’s tail into a neat swirl and tucked it into the basket.
Pig still had a smile on his face. “You’ve got my tail, but you will never get my snout inside, it is too long.”
Worm rigged himself upright until he was balanced on his coiled tail.
“What is it Worm?” a god asked.
“Please, if we break the pig’s snout we could bend it up and then he should fit into the basket”, the worm said.
And that was what they did; which explains why Pig has a turned up nose and spends so much time digging up the ground in search of worms.
On my return home to Papua New Guinea on September 16th, it was the Independence Day. My son Chris and I were very lucky to see PNG people celebrating in their traditional costumes.
On arrival at the Jacksons International Airport, Port Moresby, our first meeting was with this stunning beauty. I wish I had taken more, but I only had time to take four photographs of this beautiful woman and rush to domestic terminal to transit to Lae. I will get her name later, that’s how PNG networking is, but she was dressed in Simbu traditional dress. I believe she was part of the Air Niugini staff and assisted the international departure passengers.
If you have any questions about her dress, ask me, but this post is purely to show the beauty of the image. When I come across moments like this, I am very proud to be a Papua New Guinean. My reasons being, we are unique people, we love our culture and we are always proud to show it.
PNG chiefs made threats of a civil unrest over an unpopular Australian bank deal in the $19 billion PNG LNG project , The Age has reported.
Until now, the tribal chiefs in Papua New Guinea have been happy to host a hugely profitable natural gas project on the slopes of their mountainous land.
It might have disrupted hunting grounds, ruined waterways and uprooted fruit and vegetables, but the money flowing from it also promised progress and development for the people.
So they stuck with a 2009 agreement to provide access and security to a $US19 billion ExxonMobil PNG liquid natural gas project, which has given Australia’s nearest neighbour one of the highest GDP growth rates on earth. All that, though, could change. They are threatening to “turn off the taps” after the PNG government barred their Australian lawyers from entering the country. Read more in the The Age.
A training programme to enhance the business, marketing and product development skills of cultural producers in Solomon Islands began this week in the capital Honiara. The Solomon Islands is part of the Melanesian region of the South Pacific. The secretariat of Pacific Community (SPC) reported in its newsletter Culture Talk that cultural industries in Solomon Islands represent an important economic sector as well as the country’s rich heritage and culture.
Although there are increasing numbers of cultural producers in Solomon Islands, only a few training programmes target this sector to assist producers to export their cultural goods.
Supported by European Union, the training called “Enhancing the Pacific Cultural Industries: Fiji, Samoa and Solomon Islands” project, was implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS). The training is held in partnership with the Solomon Islands Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Solomon Islands Arts Alliance.
Unsolved Mysteries: The secret of Easter Island. YouTube.
In the most isolated place on Earth a tiny society built world-class monuments. Easter Island (Rapa Nui) is 1,000 miles from the nearest Pacific island, 3,000 miles from the nearest continent. It is just six by ten miles in size, with no running streams, terrible soil, occasional droughts, and a relatively barren ocean. Yet there are 900 of the famous statues (moai), weighing up to 75 tons and 40 feet high. Four hundred of them were moved many miles from where they were quarried to massive platforms along the shores.
Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo began their archeological work on Easter Island in 2001 expecting to do no more than add details to the standard morality tale of the collapse of the island’s ecology and society—Polynesians discovered Rapa Nui around 400-800AD and soon overpopulated the place (30,000 people on an island the size of San Francisco); competing elites cut down the last trees to move hundreds of enormous statues; after excesses of “moai madness” the elites descend into warfare and cannibalism, and the ecology collapses; Europeans show up in 1722. The obvious lesson is that Easter Island, “the clearest example of a society that destroyed itself“ (Jared Diamond), is a warning of what could happen to Earth unless we learn to live with limits.
A completely different story emerged from Hunt and Lipo’s archaeology. Polynesians first arrived as late as 1200AD. There are no signs of violence—none of the fortifications common on other Pacific islands, no weapons, no traumatized skeletons. The palm trees that originally covered the island succumbed mainly to rats that arrived with the Polynesians and ate all the nuts. The natives burned what remained to enrich the poor soil and then engineered the whole island with small rocks (“lithic mulch”) to grow taro and sweet potatoes. The population stabilized around 4,000 and kept itself in balance with its resources for 500 years until it was totally destroyed in the 18th century by European diseases and enslavement. (It wasn’t Collapse; it was Guns, Germs, and Steel.)
The world-class monuments of Rapa Nui
What was up with the statues? How were they moved? Did they have a role in the sustainable balance the islanders achieved? Hunt and Lipo closely studied the statues found along the moai roads from the quarry. They had D-shaped beveled bottoms (unlike the flat bottoms of the platform statues) angled 14 ° forward. The ones on down slopes had fallen on their face; on up slopes they were on their back. The archeologists concluded they must have been moved upright—”walked,” just as Rapa Nuians long had said. No tree logs were required. Standard Polynesian skill with ropes would suffice.
Archaeologists Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo attempt to solve the mystery in this documentary. Easter Island is also called Rapa Nui.
Read more here:
Together We Can, a music video from Papua New Guinea.
I had a request by fellow blogger Annette from Beauty Along the Road for some singsing (dancing) when I posted a story last Saturday about the South Pacific Games opening in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. I could not find any material on the web, You Tube and other avenues, however I found this video, released on July 3rd, 2015 which is about the 2015 SP Games. The video was released to celebrate the opening of the 2015 South Pacific Games. I am proud to share this video not only for its content, but it was created by two of PNG’s amazing talents, Jamie Lee and Jagarizzar. The video features a collection of traditional singsing from across PNG and some of PNG’s pop and contemporary singers. I hope you enjoy the video.
Featured Artists: Jagarizzar, Briena Micah, Tinzy Mau, Henry & Santanya Gewang
Choir: Emirau Praise
Directed by Karl Bouro & Andrew Bouro of Torn Parachute
Written & Composed by Jagarizzar & Jamie-Lee
Produced, Mix & Mastered by Bryan B of Tune Studios, Malaysia
Aerial/Drone Footage: Robert Weber & MASALAI
Video Producers: Motsy David & Kamuna Consultancy
Production Assistants: Floyd Manata, Roan Paul, Graham Robinson
Cultural Groups: Aroma, Morobe, Huli Duna, Asoro Mudman, Paluai SookSook, Kiwai Dancers, Buka Bamboo Band
This is My Heritage: Photographic Exhibition
Standing in the warm Brisbane sun outside the Queensland Museum this morning, listening to Rhianna Patrick recall her story about her heritage, which reminded me of my own. My grandmother and I collected the same seeds and went through almost the same process to produce seed pod rattles for my aunts to dance with. This musical instrument is quite common in Melanesia and other cultures such as the Indigenous Australian culture.
While Rhianna and her father drilled holes in the hard seed shells, grandma and I used metal rods from broken umbrellas by burning the rod on the fire until it was red, which then easily burnt a hole into the seed.
Rhianna’s story was about making the Kulap, the dance rattle (as pictured above) from the Torres Strait. The rattle was an object found in the Queensland Museum collection. Rhianna’s is one of twelve stories told in a photographic exhibition to highlight the significance of Australian indigenous cultural heritage in association with the collection. The exhibition also acknowledged young keepers of traditional knowledge and promoted the importance of skills in making these cultural objects. Young keepers of traditional knowledge and skills were encouraged to sustain the knowledge and skills for future generations.
Curated by Michael Aird and Mandana Mapar, twelve outstanding indigenous Australian story-tellers were invited to speak about their personal recollections of their cultural heritage – the Kulap, an object in the Queensland Museum, was the one thing that stirred many memories for Rhianna.
In her early childhood, at eight, Rhianna recalled that she had run out of things to ‘show and tell’ at school, and finally, she was forced to make something up. That was when her father suggested the two of them make the Kulap. In the process of collecting seeds on the beach to sawing the seeds in half and incising holes to threading the half seed pods together, the Kulap-making became one tradition she learnt from her father, and also one cultural heritage that has left a lasting impression on her.
Rhianna’s story about the Kulap with 12 other storytellers and their personal recollections on objects of cultural significance went on show in Queensland Museum today. The event was timed to mark the beginning of the National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) week.
In the curatorial statement, curators Aird and Mapar wrote, “In our own way, each of us gathers mementos and keepsakes around us as we remember our past and look towards the future. Our collective stories and memories guide us to tell our own personal narratives with strength and conviction.”
According to Aird and Mapar, the stories told in this exhibition reflect on the tangible core themes of connection to family and country of the indigenous people. The stories also acknowledge the unique techniques used to craft some of the artefacts and signpost historical and political milestones in Queensland indigenous history.
This is my heritage opened today to coincide with the Statewide launch of NAIDOC, a week-long event celebrating the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Treasurer and Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships Curtis Pitt said the This is my heritage exhibition was a stimulating way to recognise Queensland’s indigenous people as the primary guardians and knowledge holders of their cultural heritage.