Category Archives: Writing Stories

A Smile For Labour – Poem

A smile for the labour ©JK.Leahy

Geraniums flower beautifully, keep a lush appearance in some of the hottest, driest conditions, yet here she is blooming in the middle of Australian winter. JKLeahy pic.

A smile for labour

Her hands once tender

Cultivated hardened soil

Hardening her soft hands

In labour she offered you

Tired, dried, and withered

Kept in safe, warmth and fed

In her heart’s tender glow

She watched you grow

Watching growth take you

Blossomed and robust you

Moist, fed and comforted you

Then a gift arrived, packaged

In reward, for a hand tendered

You surprised her

Your first smile, a glorious bloom

For the hardened hand

Her heart lifted

And smiled

Melanesian Shields: Beautiful War Objects

Melanesian shields

West Papuan tribesmen prepare to ward with their shields. Credit:

The Melanesians including Papua New Guineans produced war shields they used to protect themselves but these shields have a  great artistic value. While these large hand-carved rectangular, square or oval-shaped cultural objects were made for protection in tribal war, they are also very beautiful. It is hard to visualise a work of art being used to protect one’s life, but made of hard-wood, the shields serve their purpose.

A shield of the Melanesia is a fascinating object. Many are made from wood and carry intricate tribal and clan markings representing profound spiritual meanings. The maker ensures that the markings incised or painted on this shield would protect someone’s life. In all the cultural objects that come from my heritage (the Melanesia), fighting shields would be my favourite.

1407257404738.jpg Gallery
An exhibition of Melanesian shields in Cavin-Moris Gallery.

From the 80s, I started collecting shields whenever I travelled across PNG. Once the West Papua community had a trade show in Port Moresby and I was extremely delighted to visit and I purchased  a couple of shields and a door which was carved with intricate shield designs. West Papua shields, the Asmat, top my list of favourites. Over time, my obsession with shields resulted in over 30 pieces collected.

I have some pictures tucked away in my old computer, unfortunately,  I could not find them for this post.  Most of the shields from my collection were displayed in a cafe I owned and ran with a friend.

From JKLeahy collection: Eastern Highlands shield-PNG
Before we migrated to Australia, there was a feud over lack of electricity and water to a cafe business I owned with a friend.  The landlord kept charging us astronomical amounts when we had to operate the cafe without water nor electricity. We lost business and customers. When we demanded to pay less rent (with power and water), we were locked of the cafe. Th landlord took everything, exceeding the value of the disputed rent. It was not just losing $50,000 worth of cafe equipment and furniture, my shield collection were stolen from the cafe. All gone. What happened after is another story.

It has taken me all these years to put this memory behind me. The pain returns often when I gaze at a beautiful Melanesian shield in a gallery or the thousands of beautiful pictures on Google. While most of the best and unique pieces in my life have gone, I still have a few beautiful pieces to make me smile. And I have this book (pictured below).


With Harry Beran, my friend Dr Barry Craig, anthropologist and a longtime serving curator in Papua New Guinea published a comprehensive compilation on the war shields of Melanesia in their book, “Shields of Melanesia”. The volume illustrates more than one hundred types of shields from all culture areas of Melanesia that used fighting shields. Approximately eighty percent of the shields illustrated in the book have never appeared in print. The book has images of some of the best Melanesian shields.



Cold Brisbane: We are feeling the temperature

An oiled wood coaster made by Chris Harris. 15/7/2015

Three nights ago, it was one of the coldest nights ever recorded in Brisbane in 103 years. It was very cold in the office all day and we increased the heat several times, but I had no idea it was six degrees. It was one degree in one of the suburbs – that morning. Up the river, near our home, it was below two degrees at Ipswich. This may not be cold for some of you readers that have temperatures measuring below zero at all times, but here, Brisbane is supposed to be one of the warmer states of Australia so we are feeling the cold.

Tonight was predicted to be another cold night, but so far, it has been around eight degrees celsius in Bellbowrie. On return from my evening walk, my 16-year-old son Chris brought me these little wood coasters he made while cutting firewood for our fireplace. The wood came from a tree that fell in a previous storm in our yard. We have been slowly using the tree up for various projects. And despite the cold, Chris was out making art.

A set of six wood coasters from Chris Harris. 15/7/2015

Each coaster is large enough to place under a hot cup and has beautiful grains of the hardy Acacia tree (a native to Brisbane) running through them in various shades. I decided to oil some to really bring out the grain.

Christopher Harris’ wood work.

Brisbane Weather story on The Courier Mail

Yap’s Giant Coin is Legal Tender

Public domain picture

Like some of the more unusual legal tender in other cultures of the world, the stone money from Yap is quite unique, and grand.

This is not your typical gold coin or silver coin you could flip. You would need all your friends to help you flip it and I would not wait to catch it coming down.

To continue from my post about the giant Easter Islands Monuments and this is my own theory; I’m speculating that the people who build the giant statues of the earlier post on this blog were part of the same (tribe of) people who manufactured the Rai or the giant stone coins of the Micronesian islands of Yap and Palau. My reason for thinking there may be a connection is because of what I have seen in Palau and Northern Marianas. There are giant statues all over the world and I am no archeologist. The Micronesians also have giant stone monoliths and statues. Yap became part of this ring of exchange and sharing giant objects when they brought the coins from Palau into Yap.

Palau monoliths. Picture credit:

Yap is one of four states of the Micronesia. The large coins pictured above and below were made from limestone disks and each represent wealth in a family group. There is a lot of reading in the history of all these large objects and studies are still being carried out on the mystery that surrounds the objects.

Amusing Planet Picture

Why did the Yapese take to this new kind of money?

John Tharngan, historical preservation officer of Yap explained that  the coins were invented during a period when the chiefs on Yap were struggling for power.

“In those days all sorts of commodities were being used as valuables, including shells and turmeric and so the concept of bringing something in from outside, that didn’t exist on Yap, was very attractive. So when they brought this piece home and called it money, it encouraged other people to make the journey and bring stones back. So they went and brought more, this time in the shape of a full moon with a hole in the middle, for ease of transportation, like the ones you can see here on Yap”, Tharngan said.

Jaime Hernandez – March 12, 2012 – Making the Rai.

The value of the stone coins is determined by the number of lives lost during the process of transportation and the workmanship on each stone. They are used for buying land and bride price.

I first saw the Rai at the National Museum of Palau in 2008. I asked many questions and got bemused looks from locals, to say that these coins were part of everyday trades, an undying culture passed through generations. I could not imagine a piece of coin carried by six adult male compared to a dollar you could pull out of your pocket and flick in the air, and in Papua New Guinea, we mostly used shells as our legal tender. Perhaps at one point, we also used stones.

What a wonderful life blog picture.

Yap is about 100 square kilometres and home to 12,000 people. The island of Yap has no precious material like gold or silver instead, they use these giant disks of limestone called Rai as currency for large trades and still use them as small as seven to eight centimetres in diameter to trade with. The larger ones stand as high as 3.65metres (12 feet tall) and weigh five tonne. Many of the Yapese coins were carved in Palau and shipped 400 metres to Yap. There was a story that once a large Rai was transported across the water between the Yapese and it tipped the canoe and sank. This coin was always remembered and its value (for the family that owned that coin) was continued to be used in the trades. Read more on the Yap’s coins on the links below.

Amusing Planet

BBC News

Most unusual money in the world – what a wonderful life blog also has an article about money from other cultures.

Papua New Guinea at a juncture

A Report from Radio New Zealand International’s Johnny Blades.

Papua New Guinea is at a juncture, experiencing unprecedented economic growth but still mired by poverty, tribalism and parlous human development outcomes.  Exxon Mobil’s $US19 billion Liquefied Natural Gas project in PNG began exports last year, marking a major milestone in the country’s development as a foreign investment destination and energy hub.

Yet the benefits from development of PNG’s abundant natural resources – mineral, oil, forestry, fisheries and others – appear mainly confined to a tiny part of the population.
RNZI’s Johnny Blades travelled to PNG and, in this video report, he asks if PNG can convert its significant resources wealth into tangible gains for its burgeoning population.

Released at last: “You’re Not Alone” an athology in aid of MacMillan Cancer Care

Fantastic Christoph! Great post.


11705837_967531943267360_280957472_oThe wait is over:

“You’re Not Alone” an anthology in aid of MacMillan Cancer Care has been released. A paperback version is also available! Get your copy now!

Twenty-seven writers from around the world, including myself have entered an assortment of short stories for your pleasure, show your support by liking the new page on Facebook and expressing an interest in buying the book.

You’ll find the book on your Amazon  via these links:

You’ll find the Facebook page here:

And here is the fund, in loving memory of Pamela Mary Winton

100% of the royalties earned or accrued in the purchase of this book, in all formats, will go to the Pamela Winton tribute fund, which is in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support.


An anthology, themed on relationships, of more than 20 authors 

from around the world –  from urban fantasy to stories that bring tears to the…

View original post 673 more words

Black East: Tracing Black Ancestry

My friend Paco D. Taylor enjoys researching and writing articles. I have not met many people who are so fascinated and interested in a culture outside of their own.  Paco is from Chicago, U.S.A, but he is intrigued by Melanesia. After a year of exchanging stories, history, art, music, etc, I can understand why Paco  feels strongly about the Melanesian people and culture.  His study of the black people in Asia has produced some very interesting connections to Melanesians.

In my culture, as you make friends with someone and whether they are from your tribe, a relative or a friend,  they become your “wantok”.  Some time ago, my wantok Paco published his article, Black East which discusses the ancestry of the black people in the East. I have read and found this story very interesting and Paco has kindly let me share the article on this blog. I hope you enjoy it. If you have any questions, I’m sure Paco would be very happy to answer them.

​Ban Doan Woman (Wa) and child (Samoi). Saturn Province, Southern Thailand, 1963. Photo by John H. Brandt

By Paco D. Taylor

As a kid growing up on the far South Side of Chicago, whenever I would envision the physical features of Asian peoples—since those I saw most were in martial arts movies and Ultraman reruns on television—a fairly narrow set of characteristics always came to mind. Perhaps not surprisingly, brown skin and curly black hair were never among them. But one fateful day my father told me of an eye-opening experience he’d had as a young man serving in the United States Marines. While stationed in the Philippines between 1961 and 1963, “Pops” learned of Asians whose physical features were significantly different from what most Americans have been conditioned to expect.

There in the Philippines, Pops saw native Filipinos who, albeit small in stature, looked a lot like him, with dark brown skin, curly black hair and—stranger still—African facial features. To say the very least, the sight of such people living in the heart of Southeast Asia was completely unexpected.

It was also unsettling.

Perhaps equally as unsettling, my father learned that these puzzling pint-sized people were referred to locally by a Spanish term, one that translates literally into English as the “little blacks.”

Facts of Life

As the Earth’s largest and most populous land-mass, Asia is home to 60 percent of the planet’s human population. Included in this sum are the continent’s lesser-known groups called the Negritos—indigenous Asians who look a lot more like the relatives of Gary Coleman than Jackie Chan.

Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Paco?

The term Negrito was first applied by Spanish explorers in the 16th century, after encounters with such people during early forays into the region. And though wholly unscientific, the term is still used today to refer to distinct ethnic groups living in parts of Southeast Asia and the Asian Pacific island of Papua New Guinea.

According to James J.Y. Liu, author of the book The Art of Chinese Poetry, the term kunlun is the equivalent of Negrito in the Chinese language, and there are several mentions of kunlun people in the early literature of China. The most well-known of these can be found in the classic adventure romance entitled The Kunlun Slave.

In the language of their Malay-speaking neighbors, Negritos are known as the orang asli, meaning, “first people” or “original people.” This term would come into general use in the 1930s, in response to efforts by the Malaysian government to officially recognize them as the region’s earliest human inhabitants.

Prior to the adoption of a more respectful designation, such people were commonly called by the pejorative term semang (“debt slave”), a word bonded to times when, like other blacks, Negritos too were abducted from their homelands and sold into slavery, but in Asia.

Family Tree

The defining physical features of Negrito people include dark brown to black skin, curly black hair and diminutive stature. The average height among men is 5 feet, 5 inches, and the average height among women is 4 feet, 8 inches.

And though they are seemingly orphaned from humanity’s family tree, Maury Povich won’t be needed to pop for a DNA test to figure out “Who is the father?” According to geneticists, these peculiar Peoples are actually the modern descendants of the first migrant populations to venture into Asia more than 50,000 years ago.

That there is a strong resemblance between Negritos and African groups like the Pygmies of Uganda and Congo is obvious What is impossible to see, however, is that on DL (DNA level), these people share closer genetic bonds to other Asians than they do to now-distant cousins back in the Motherland.

Stunted Growth

Fossil finds from across the continent suggest that these nomadic hunter-gatherers once lived across Asia from India to southernmost Japan. The southern islands of the Pacific Ocean (Oceania) were also once part of their domain, as well as the southern continent of Australia and the island of Tasmania.

Their stomping grounds today, however, are but mere traces of what they once were.

Challenged by the continuous spread of larger, more organized and more technologically advanced human groups, their once wide-open range has been limited only to isolated parts of the Philippines, Southern Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Andaman Islands (off the coast of Burma), and Papua New Guinea.

What’s more, populations that were documented as recently as the late 19th century to have numbered in the tens of thousands now number only in the thousands. But the numbers for some groups have become even smaller.

Drastically smaller.

Today, the tribal population of the Onge people in the Andaman Islands numbers less than one hundred. It is conceivable that in the proverbial blink of an eye, this ancient tribe of humankind will simply cease to exist.

Please visit Paco Taylor’s blog link below to read the rest of the article and view images.

Paco Taylor’s Blog : Kungfu Grip Zine

Mucga’s Song

When you are a child, things can seem simple and beautiful. You may know something more and you can sense it, but you are afraid to ask. You pretend to only understand what you could because you knew –  you were told only what you needed to know. As you grow and your mind opens more, you lose that innocence and protection of your thoughts. Your older mind sees the ugly side to those things such as people and how they treated others or bad places and bad things.

This story is about a friend of mine. Many that knew our small village, Wagang, on the Coast of Lae, Papua New Guinea may remember Mucga. She was a distant aunt. We had a special relationship which no-one really understood but sometimes, friendship and love do not need any explanation- they can just exist. My story is for Mucga.

Mucga’s Song

It was a crispy morning about 9 o’clock. The blue sky threw dancing crystals on the Budac River. The river had a lazy flow today. My eyes could see through the water to the other side of the bank and the river was full of fish feeding on the mud and shell fish on the beds and mangrove roots. A slight breeze rustled the pandanus and swept the long green leaves over the golden ripe seeds. Already the seeds were attracting insects and birds with its sweetness. The breeze gathered sand and dried leaves bounced quickly along the hardened sandy bank to the river then floated back gently.

I had to be first to get to Budac before all the other children so I can catch enough dinner. The fish did not tolerate crowds nor noise. It was the main river used by Wagang villagers, just along the coast of  Huon Gulf in Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea.

I set up my trap, an empty 500g Nescafe coffee jar and waded into the water. I had filled it with a quarter cooked rice and water. With the labels and lid removed, it was one tall glass cylinder. The rice grains were twirling around in the clear bottle as I filled it to the brim to let out the bubbles, holding it under water. I took a deep breath and just as I went under water, I heard singing;

‘Musawa ke se leng geleng gwec, oh geleng gwec ngademu geo sasa, geo kesuc

Oh geoc ke soc o Bukawa.

(The giant easterly was drenching in the ocean as she swept and stirred the sea dirty and rough – outwards and then inwards and finally she arrived at the shores of Bukawac).

Bukawac is a coastal sub-district down the coast. It would take more than three school lunch breaks to get there by a motor boat. On foot, it takes nearly a day.

Muc ga! I yelled out loud.

She was startled and stopped on her next deep breath before her second verse. Mucga looked over the water at me. In our culture, we would sing while we worked. With the corners of her lips turned downwards quickly, I upset her because she wanted to sing to help me catch fish. Then suddenly, she gave me a very big grin and stood up.  I had seen this grin too often and knew what it was for.

‘Are you catching OUR fish?’ she asked coyly as she walked up to the bank near me. Quickly my annoyance turned into a smile.  Mucga had mental illness at a very early age. She was a grown up now, but I would not know for sure how old she was. The children in the village called her ‘longlong’ in pidgin. She would act funny and talk funny. Most times she was like a child. Mucga can go from a normal conversation to an extremely angry or sad mood and say very bad words like “Satan” and the  “K” word which is really the “C” word.

When I was growing up, I would hear her cry and scream and an ambulance would come and take her to the Angau Hospital. I heard the adults say she was in Ward 9. I didn’t like it went she was beaten. I knew she was mis-treated. She would be gone for weeks so I would fish alone at Budac. In her good days, Mucga would tag along.  My mother told me not to fish with other children because they used many bad words. Often the children would torment me and call me names. A couple of those words were “bastard”, “white bastard” and “sting” which was a pidgin word for stinky. I often wondered if they meant that I smelt funny because I look different or that I was lighter.

My cousin Elsie Joseph who was younger then I would fish with me sometimes. I loved her. We always had fun. She was often sick with head Malaria. My other two friends did not like fishing.

When I asked grandma about Mucga, grandma said Mucga’s spirit was not at rest. If Mucga’s spirit was rested, it would stay calmly inside her and Mucga would be herself. The restless spirit was something Mucga was born with and we have to accept her.

Mucga’s walk was up and down and sometimes sideways with her bad foot dragging behind her. This foot would draw a line on the sand as she went. Mother said it was because leprosy ate her leg. I always wandered how leprosy chose to eat Mucga’s leg and not everybody’s leg. Mother said that when you wear another person’s shoe and they have leprosy, that leprosy would eat your feet too, then your leg. That always worried me because in my head,  I had pictures of people trying to walk without their feet and legs.

Mucga stood in front of me. Her sore feet pointing at me and every now and then she marched quickly to chase the flies off.

I can catch OUR fish, I stressed, but only if you stop singing. You know the fish don’t like singing or noise and if you keep singing to the big easterly wind, that wind will come, I said.

Mucga’s usual troubled eyes were reflecting the dancing happy crystals from the water. She was happy, thinking she was helping me. Mucga looked straight at me again with her 20 year-old eyes and then nodded. She had a slight smile and I saw her teeth – never been touched by beetlenut stain.

At seven, I had never felt any animosity from this woman. I felt like hugging her.  Mucga had always frightened children and adults alike in my village. She would scream and launch at them when they abused her. I was glad she did. They all deserved it.

Mucga tried to smile, showing just a handful of teeth this time and I knew she would wait there for me – the whole day. I also knew, there was no guarantee the singing had stopped.

I waded further into the river and eight metres from the sandy bank, water quickly came up to my neck. My feet stirring up mud and the softness indicated that I was deep enough. I let myself into the water and with two kicks I steadied into position and placed my coffee bottle ‘trap’ on the river floor. The bottle’s mouth faced the bank. With a gentle wave of my right hand underwater at the mouth of the jar while holding the jar with my left, I encouraged the rice grains out in a trail along the body to the mouth of the coffee jar. It is the bait.

If I placed too much rice outside the jar, the fish will fill their stomachs outside the jar and then leave. This is a routine I have expertly mastered in my many years of fishing with coffee and jam jars.

Now the fish would innocently come for the rice and follow the trail to the back of the bottle. When the fish discovers it is a trap and starts to panic and struggle to turn to get out of the bottle, I dive in, close the jar mouth with my hand and swim to the shore to empty my catch on the bank. The whole process is repeated until I had enough fish. Sometimes my cousins or aunts would give me an extra bottle but rarely do the fish get trapped simultaneously.

When I returned to the bank, Mucga started singing again and the wind picked up.

MucGa – nem we tom. I called to her – don’t sing, you will make the wind come, the water rough and scare the fish.

She nodded and looked down; peeling at her sore toes. Her very faded floral cotton dress hung loosely and her skin was palely dry. I looked at her contrasted wet black tight curly hair; a rough cut closely to her ears. It was not fetching. That haircut would have been forced and she would have fought her barber, I thought.

Lost in five minutes of thoughts, I suddenly caught glimpse of scales flashing and ran and dived into the river to my coffee jar. When I got out to catch my breath and held up the fish in the jar, Mucga was jumping up and down making strange noises. She was in already dancing in my waiting spot. I came up to her; water running down my shorts and T shirt and emptied the fish onto the wet sand.  As the fish jumped, she jumped and started singing out of tune.

I told Mucga – Ok you can have the first one, but please, be quiet. I refilled the bottle and walked back into the water. This routine went on for a few years. At the end of each day, we split the fish.

Just before I reached ten, my aunt told me Mucga had died in the Angau Hospital, in Lae. I took my fishing tackle that morning and made my way to the river. The Easterly blew hard and I sang her song loudly. I wanted to frighten the fish, rustle the leaves and scare the birds in memory of my friend.