It is going up to 5pm here in Brisbane and I am almost feeling better after my old girl (computer) crashed this morning. Thank you Gary Hall for having the “puri puri”, (magic) of conducting a tech recovery process without being present. I still don;t get it Gary, but anyway, my old girl is up and running and groaning less so I am grateful. I had promised an article I wrote about the Kula canoe, Sopikarin. South Australia Museum has now purchased this canoe which sat in their museum lobby for a few years. Pictured above, it is an exquisite piece of history, all kept in one piece. It represents the amazing Kula Ring as shown in the map, a trading area and a highly organised system that lasted for many generations and the Milne Bay people in Papua New Guinea should be very very proud of this canoe and their rich heritage. Sopikarin carries with it, all it’s ornaments and markings of your ancestors and many stories, many untold can only be imagined by many people from many cultures and tribes around the world.
I have always loved the stories behind canoes and in Papua New Guinea and other Pacific Island countries, it was our only transportation for many centuries – for trade and as a means of getting from one place to another. Each canoe is build from a unique tree and often there are several rituals associated with the preparation and launching to ensure that our ancestors protect us while we travel. We have always been seafarers long before the western ships and boats came.
I wrote the article about Sopikarin, the last Kula trading canoe as part of my research for my Masters in Museum studies at University of Queensland. There may be other ‘last ones’ out there and I hope I can here from you, the Masawa people. This article has been published in the Paradise Magazine (Air Niugini In-flight Magazine) and I would like to thank Dr Barry Craig and SAM – the South Australia Museum for the contribution to my research and the story.
Following the ppublication in Paradise Dr Harry Beran wrote this email to Dr Craig about the name of the canoe. I would be grateful for any Masawa people in Milne Bay Province to contribute to the discussion on what is the true meaning of the name “Sopikarin.
Email from Dr Beran:
I’ve just seen the article on the masawa canoe on display at the SAM. Nice piece.
I have a copy of a typescript by Kiriwinans and ralph lawton which gives the terminology of the components of a masawa canoe. I can send you a copy if you don’t have one already.
I find the reason for its name implausible. Would Trobrianders use a wood that doesn’t float for the hull? I do know that the wood called meku in Kiriwina and kwila in tok pisin doesn’t float but would they use this for canoes? (I think it’s used for the tables made for sale) Nor can I see why the log the hull is carved from would end up in the water before it was carved into the hull. Nor why the water near the land would be so deep that divers bled from ears and nose. Anyhow Peter Hallinans’ notes on Sopikarin make it clear that the explanation of the canoe’s name is part of a legend and legends don’t have to make sense.
If you look at Hallinan’s notes, at the end of the explanation of the name, there is a much more plausible explanation. apprentice carvers drink water over which magic has been performed. sopi = water. One could ask ralph whether he knows what karin(a) means; it’s not in his dictionary of 2002
Harry Beran (Dr)
6 The Square
CAMBS CB25 9JJ
Please click on the link below to read my story about Sopikarin’s new journey – to Australia.
Thank you all for your comments and encouragement for my very first post yesterday. As promised here is one of my short stories. I belong to a Creative Writing workshop group at Kenmore School in the Western Suburbs of Brisbane City, QLD Australia. We meet once a week during school term to workshop our stories under the master story-teller and author Isabel D’ Avila Winter. Here is a story I wrote under the category short-story fiction. It was based on events of a real situation but characters and scenes have been changed. I hope that it would be published later in my short story book. Please click on the highlighted link below to download or read the story.
The Price of a Small Change – JK.Leahy short story
“Any small change?”
Dit held out his right palm as he expectantly traced the bus queue at Kelvin Grove, Brisbane. It was Thursday, almost seven. For Late Night Shopping in the suburbs, not too many people were around. The wind was cold.
Visitors to the Royal Brisbane Hospital were leaving; visiting hours ended at 8pm.
“Excuse me, any small change?”, he asked the fifth person, a pale-faced peroxide blonde woman, in her fifties. Standing nearly as tall as him in a black three inch high heel and, wrapped warmly in a red coat, her heavily made-up face took a long stare at Dit’s ripped blue poly-cotton long-sleeve shirt. Clearly, Dit’s appearance did not fit. She scoffed and looked away.
Dit pressed forward without a flinch or loss of courage.
His left shirt pocket had ripped to its base and flew about like a kite in the wind. He was barefooted. His dirty blonde strands flapped in the same direction the wind took his pocket.
“Small change?” he asked the next three people. No-one gave him a thing. No-one said anything.
I could hear him coming towards my sister and I as the crust on his trouser hem swept the floor as he walked. I started to feel around for coins in my pockets, my bag and my purse, my eyes on him. Being a pensioner, I had only spent my last $20 for that week on a bus ticket and dropped the change somewhere in my bag. I had not planned for this situation. I could identify with this man’s desperation and I wanted to help.
In a few seconds, I could see his dirty brown denims sweep into view and two very dirty feet peeked at me. His toe nails, soiled, uncut and ugly. My eyes followed the awkwardly hung trouser legs up his thin frame to his face.
“Any lose coins”, he asked, standing tall and looking down at me with steel blue eyes. Nothing could be piercing and clearer than those eyes, set in a ruffle of stringy long hair. The bus terminal overhanging casted a shadow over his face but I could see less than half a dozen teeth and a wide smile outlined by a scanty moustache.
I held up our lose change, both my sister’s and mine and he grabbed it, touching my hand. I pulled away.
“Hi, I’m Dit” he said as he pocketed our coins.
I smiled at him. He stood there, smiled back and then asked: “Don’t I know you?”
My sister stared at him, alarmed.
“No, I don’t think so”, I said.
“Oh… I KNOW YOU’, he insisted. “You helped me before”.
I was embarrassed that I could not remember. I hoped he did not think I pretended to not know him.
“Ah, maybe I did help you in the city or the Valley”, I said.
He flashed a big toothy grin and coughed. “Oh well, I better get going”.
“Alright, you take care now” I said and watched him disappear into the dimly lit street.
At that moment, Bus 333 arrived and everyone piled into it. My sister and I took the seats at the back door. We had the view of the front but we could get off quickly to catch Bus 444 to Moggill at the city stop.
As the bus drew out, a man in a long black coat ran and jumped on just before the bus door slammed shut. He carried something.
Stopping briefly to check the main road traffic, the driver eased Bus 333 onto the road and headed for Brisbane City.
Every passenger was sitting with their heads pointing down engrossed on their smart phones, tablets and other electronic devices. A woman in the seat near us read the paper. At the front of the bus, my eye caught that last passenger. He leaned against the metal post near the driver and there was something about his stance and his face was familiar but he was covered and his coat had a hood.
As I watched, the passenger approached the driver; we were only five minutes away from Adelaide Street Central Bus Terminal. The man leaned over and the bus driver suddenly stepped on his brakes two stops before the city and a few metres short of the next stop.
All the passengers’ eyes came up briefly and then they returned to their phones and what they were doing before. I felt something strange was about to happen.
I kept looking at the passenger. Then he stood stand up again. I saw him drop a piece of cloth revealing a gun, which he pointed at the driver. The driver slammed the brakes and everybody swayed forward and some even screamed. We had stopped in a quiet dark street.
Some passengers started crying and many tried to get up, but the stranger cocked the gun and said in a firm voice as he walked towards us: “Everyone, please stay where you are, do not move and do not try to scream, I have a loaded gun”. His voice was familiar.
The man stopped in front of my sister and me; I was shocked.
It was the same toothless smile I had only seen earlier this evening. “You two can leave”, he said, nodding his head towards the door.
Trembling and holding on to each other, we stepped down and just as we got out, he leaned over and said: “You take care now”.
The door slammed shut and Bus 333 drove away.
Welcome and thank you for reading my blog. My name is Joycelin Leahy. My blog name is Tribal Mystic. I am an Ahe (pronounced: aah hee) woman from Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG); one of the most unique and diverse countries of many tribes, languages, cultures and natural beauty. I now live in Brisbane, Australia and work between the two countries.
Whether you come from PNG or not, we all come from tribes and we belong to some kind of tribal group and material objects or things that give us our identity. I believe each person and each thing has a story. I am hoping to share with you some of these stories about people, animals and things that have been part of my life. I hope that you would find these stories interesting and share them with others. I have been a journalist, artist, an arts curator, business woman, climate activist and story-teller and a mother of two amazing sons. I have also been a cleaner, house painter, body painter, sales person, renovator, telemarketer, campaigner – you name it, I have tried many things…As present, I write for pleasure and I paint and teach others to paint while I run my art gallery in Bellbowrie called Beyond Pacific Art.
I am very passionate about sustainable heritage particularly with the effects of climate change. I would also like to see more women in PNG and the Pacific Islands become self-sufficient by using their traditional heritage to do contemporary business and at the same time, not give in to too much commercialisation and losing their traditional skills. Teach your daughters and grand daughters your skills now. I only hope for eco-tourism in the future and I would like to see Pacific Island countries, particularly the Melanesians work extra hard to preserve their unique heritages. We are losing many languages. I support visual artists and embrace all the challenges that women face around the world and particularly in my country and the islands. There will be posts about many of my interests I have just mentioned as part of my introduction to this blog. I hope what I write would support, educate and be simply enjoyed. Please give me some honest feedback.
I have been contemplating this role as a blogger for almost three years and was always afraid and concerned that I would never have the right content or quantity to write about. Just writing this tonight makes me feel like a very excited small kid dying to play in a large playground with strangers. I took some time to speak to friends and family who are expert bloggers (thank you Mari Ellingson – Island Meri) and looked at veterans Malum Nalu and Masalai and after some research and feedback I have finally taken the giant step. I hope that I can stand comfortably on my feet in the coming months and make another step towards sharing extraordinary stories and pictures. I will write about art, culture, heritage, climate change, creative writing, nature, family women, business, music, beauty and fashion, but to name a few. Each post will be different and could be from any of these topics. In this first blog, I would like to share an image of two birds – both lorikeets that have come to live with us here on the outskirts of the city in Bellbowrie. Over the years my sons and I have loved and cared for animals and insects and I often get a shock when without warning I find a dead beetle in the freezer, waiting to be buried properly. I have also been deeply moved often when my sons make me stop at roadsides to pick up road-kills and take them home with us. Whether it be a possum or bird they wanted us to take the animals home to give them a good burial in our yard. Next blog I will share with you one of my short stories about life in Brisbane City. Tenk yu tumas na lukim yu! (Thank you very much and I’ll be seeing you!).