Tag Archives: JK.Leahy stories

The Art of a Doctor: Powesiu Lawes


A self-taught artist, this man showed artistic skills as a child by simply drawing fishermen on the sandy beaches in his remote Papua New Guinea village.  Years later, he ventured into higher education and became a medical doctor, yet never leaving behind his love of drawing.

Dr Powesiu Lawes on the beach at his beloved Loniu Village, Manus, Papua New Guinea.

Born in 1957 in Loniu Village, on Los Negros Island, in Manus Province, Powesiu Lawes’ art began as drawings in the sand. He recalls that he always enjoyed capturing images of fishermen catching fish on the reef at dawn and later at dusk.

A gifted school student, he quickly accelerated from Primary to Secondary School in Manus Province, during the Australian colonial administration. From his home province, Manus, he was selected into the elite Sogeri Senior High School outside Port Moresby (now PNG Capital) in the early 1970s. He was recognised at each school he attended as a talented artist, actor, sportsman and gifted student whose abilities would enable him to do anything he wanted in the soon-to-be newly independent Papua New Guinea. PNG gained its Independence in September 16, 1975.

At that time, Powesiu was expected to train to become one of PNG’s first airline pilots, but he rejected this path and began medical school. While studying medicine,  he produced a collection of work published in his first book of art – Wati Kui: “I always wanted to help people, so medical school was a natural choice and my art and the first book – Wati Kui – was one way to pay my way through my medical training”.

After graduating from medical school, Powesiu Lawes spent some years as the senior medical officer in the PNG Navy. Then he began his private medical practice in Port Moresby. He maintained his art rugby union coaching and stayed closely connected to his beloved Loniu Village, by regularly trips home.

In 2009,  he retired from medical practice and returned to Loniu Village where he was elected the Councillor of Loniu, Los Negros’ largest village. The village has its own distinct language and cultural practices and is also known for producing  PNG’s educated elite such  as PNG’s Supreme Court judges, academics, diplomats, doctors, scientists and lawyers. Powesiu Lawes’ art is one central strategy in keeping Loniu’s cultural practices alive, along with his aim of establishing a Loniu Culture House in the village to teach Loniu’s youth their unique practices.

“Without a good grounding in the tradition of their birth” he said,  “many of them will lose their way once they leave the village for the bright lights and temptations of Lae, Port Moresby and beyond. I never did, because of the very grounding I had”.

About art, he said he has tried many different mediums – using brushes,  spray painting for murals, and coloured inks; but the result that black ink on white paper gives, is the medium that gives him the greatest satisfaction. He has completed a second book – Wati Kui 2 – and its drawings are currently shown in Redlands Performing Art Centre in Cleveland (Brisbane, Australia). It is part of the Melanesian Wantok Showcase. Here are some of  Dr Lawes’ artwork and their stories

The ‘Loniu Files’: Some customs and traditions of the Loniu people. Pen and Ink drawing by Dr Powesiu Lawes, Papua New Guinea artist

 

The ‘Loniu Files’: Some customs and traditions of the Loniu people

Loniu, like many other societies, has a well-developed set of cultural practices and traits that have provided reference points for Loniu’s cultural, social and spiritual development over hundreds of years. These have contributed to refined sets of knowledge and skills that have sustained and maintained Loniu society. The Loniu Files is a set of shared and understood ideas, idiosyncrasies, beliefs, values, knowledge and language. The substance of these has stood time’s test and cannot be disproven nor proven.

Aspects of Loniu’s culture are respect (u-uie), being sorry (kolumwamwa) and having shame (pulemachi), to whom, for what, and why; clans, their names, their number and the existence and origins of sub clans, along with each clan’s and sub clans’s origin stories and particular practices (reke pwen); in the various fishing methods, by which clans they are owned them, for what fish and whether for private or public consumption; the layout and size of a clan house (haus boi); utterances made by whom, when, where and for what purpose; who can make public speeches, where he sits or stands and why; land and sea uses and how and why, in the case of land or other property, it is given away; stages of custom and traditional practice during or after a death, when a woman is ready to marry, and gets married; and in the case of two or more wives, the use and distribution of land and other property; who is considered a leader and why; who gives advice to and stays with a young girl in her first menstruation, the advice given and why; who speaks in a haus boi during a customary event, gathering or happening, and why; circumcision of young males, the curses (pen) shouted at them by patrilineal relatives (lau-a-niataman, family of father) and why.

These are but a few of Loniu’s cultural traits with many more needing documentation. Efforts are being made to document the Loniu culture and to preserve its language. It is our identity that, because of modern influences and intermarriage, has deteriorated. Because of ignorance of the power of new ideas, practices and attitudes, not recognising these causes early enough, we have failed.

“Traditional Wealth in Transaction”. Pen and Ink drawing by Dr Powesiu Lawes, Papua New Guinea artist

 

Wealth is always used in very important transactions in Loniu society. Clay pots, wooden bowls, grass skirts, arm bands or waist bands, shell money, dog’s teeth and sometimes cowry shells.

They can be used to reciprocate for a large supply of food given to a husband’s people as bride price or as death payments to a deceased father’s people; again as in reciprocation for previous work done or land used and money or other customary events and obligations, such as in a circumcision ceremony.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Songbird of Articulate Words


A Songbird of Articulate Words – J.K.Leahy Story

Jenny and Tawny.

A songbird is a bird that produces musical sounds which are like singing, according to the Webster dictionary. If that’s the case then photographer/poet Jenny Campbell is a songbird in my view.

I can confidently say this after listening to her at a lunch table last week in Brisbane, reciting one of her poems about the world we live in.

I share the love of birds with Jenny, but she takes her love for these feathered creatures to another level where she stalks them in the swamps and photographs them – then writes poetry about them. The ‘stalking’ is also called bird-watching. Jenny also writes serious poetry about life, the environment and politics.

Jenny Campbell the poet.

I met Jenny a week ago in Brisbane through a dear friend Dr Susan Cochrane, an arts curator and a writer. Jenny is one of many artists participating in the Blue Mountains Garden of Earthly Delights Festival in November. In the Blue Mountains show, she will be featuring her bird photography and poetry. Dr Cochrane is the curator of the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens show marking its 30th anniversary. Another artist participating in the botanic show, is Orly Faya.

Jenny is currently in Brisbane  for the QPF2017 Australia Poetry Slam – Queensland Finals. She is one of 20 finalists. Below this story Jenny has kindly allowed me to feature one of her bird photographs and the poem she wrote for this bird – an Australian robin. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Let’s wish Jenny Campbell all the best in the poetry finals this Sunday, ( August 27th) at the Judith Wright Centre, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane.

Take us to another place
where vines entwine the heart
correcting misconceptions
through the first and final art

Untwine entrenched surrender
feel the struggle to betray
the very chains that bind us
as a Robin says: “G’day.”

Eastern Yellow Robin, Australia

 

Macro Mantis Max


Macro Mantis Max  – J.K.Leahy Stories

Praying Mantis Max is on the hot water jug. J.K.Leahy Pic.

I haven’t photographed with my macro lens in a long while, but tonight I was surprised by this macro praying mantis when I tried to make myself a cup of tea. It sat there on my water jug which had not been boiled yet. A closer look; Max as we shall name him or her, is adorned like a gorgeous African queen with matching coloured skirt to her large stud earrings. This little brown insect is not more than ten centimetres long without its wings.

It was very still when I took the photos, but because a hungry gecko was nearby, I lifted it away from the jug and placed him high in the ceiling. That’s all I could do. Praying mantis were part of my early life when I spent hours in the bush and gardens with my grandma. We have a song which we sing when we see one, and it actually makes them dance. I didn’t try the song tonight or make Max dance, but I tried to save Max, knowing Max had too many predators around.

Fun Fact from National Geographic:

The praying mantis is named for its prominent front legs, which are bent and held together at an angle that suggests the position of prayer. By any name, these fascinating insects are formidable predators. They have triangular heads poised on a long “neck,” or elongated thorax.

 

 

The Dawn Fruit Pickers: A Story


J.K.Leahy PIc. Sulphur-crested cockatoo eating a passion fruit. Is that a look of remorse at being caught red-handed or a look of defiance?

There was a commotion outside my house in Bellbowrie, Queensland a few days ago.  All the windows and curtains were shut. I dreaded that the neighbour’s dogs were back following a recent attack. The had come over a month ago and attacked our chickens, almost killing the rooster. The rooster survived the attack, but lost the use of its feet and started to develop ulcers. We had him put down two weeks after the attack.

Since then, the other three chickens’ were very nervous. They were frightened by the distant dog barks, people laughing, cars passing by, the crows that live in the back yard, and even the plane flying overhead. I was annoyed by the chickens constant panic cries and all the false alarms by now. But, I keep getting reminded by one of my favourite stories as a child, the Aesop Fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. I would have this nagging thought, full of guilt, “what if..?” (That is what if the neighbours dogs were back?)

I sprung out of bed and quickly opened the curtain. The chickens were still moving around nervously in the backyard, but nothing was on them or at them from the ground. They were staring into the trees. Something was moving in the pepper tree. The pepper tree was completely covered with my passion fruit vine and full of the season’s fruits, many were ready to pick. I could not see the moving thing; I knew it couldn’t be the possums, because with daylight, they were asleep in the roof. I had another thought, a large snake.

I moved to another room and opened the window to take a better look. Sure enough, there it was – a little white clump of feather moving in the thick greenery. The window opening distracted the sulphur-crested cockatoo and it sat up from the bushy tree and looked straight at me. In its claw was the half-eaten juicy passion fruit.

“The thief is back,” I told myself.  The same cockatoo and company also stole the macadamia on my two trees and most times, they removed the nuts while still green, and dropped them to the ground.

Sulphur-crested cockatoos can be kept as pets and they are beautiful birds to look at. They are also quite majestic when they fly and their wings are fully stretched. But these birds travel in pairs or colonies and are often quite destructive. They had come every season for the macadamia, and sometimes I chased them away because they were so noisy.

Today, the cockatoo just sat there, devouring the fruit and then took another ripe one. I did keep them away from the passionfruit bush previous seasons by wrapping all the fruits in bags. I forgot to do that this season. The bird picked every fruit and dropped the un-ripe ones to the ground. I took a few pictures, but when the bird threw the unripe fruits to the ground, I chased it off.

The next day, even before dawn, I heard noises outside my window. The chickens were still asleep. I looked at the pepper tree. It was weighed over towards my room. The pepper tree was completely covered with a gang of cockatoos, clawing their way over the passion fruit bushes and branches and eating very quietly. They worked like the fruit pickers across Queensland who rise at dawn and work their way through the orchards.

I was amazed at how quiet and sneaky they were, a complete opposite to their usual loud antiques. I was too tired to chase them off, but by the time I was ready to wake up, they left me two ripe, one wrinkled and two green passion fruits from the entire season’s harvest. In spite, I pulled the remaining five down, but I decided not to chop the vine. I must remember to save the fruit before the cockatoos return the next season. They have tasted the sweetness of the fruit of passion.

 

The Passion of Autumn


The Passion of Autumn – Passion fruit flowers with fruits

After the recent rains, we have a high yield of passion fruit, both flowers and fruit arriving rapidly this season, and just before we go into winter.  When the fruit of passion arrives, there is always a party in my backyard for many living things. The vines have completely taken over a pepper tree and all insects and animals are helping themselves to the nectar of the intoxicating beautiful flowers and green fruits. Hopefully there will be some left to ripen for the bats, possums and my family to enjoy in winter.

 

Where the Butterflies Sleep – Photography


Under the leaves of the double (petal) fuchsia hibiscus is where the butterflies sleep. The withered hibiscus leaves dying and hanging, provide the perfect camouflage for the butterflies. If light does not reflect on their folding wings or their shimmering patterns, you just don’t know – that is where the butterflies sleep after dark.

How did I know this? I was helping my mother late one evening to prune these beautiful hibiscus bushes and I saw the butterflies. There were lots of them under the leaves – hanging upside down like the flying foxes. As soon as light arrived the next morning, I went to check and the butterflies had gone.

DSC_0416

 

DSC_0426

 

DSC_0422

 

DSC_0421

 

DSC_0417

 

DSC_0419

 

Kaz is a Father – Wildlife Stories


DSC_0911-3
Baby lorikeet tries to balance himself on the umbrella tree fruit.

Kaz, our pet lorikeet is a father, and he has been for about a month. I only just found out a week ago. I guess I am a grandmother again, having already had several ducklings being born to ducks my sons and I have raised in Bellbowrie, Queensland.

Weeks before the baby was born, Kaz the lorikeet came for chats in the Umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla) while I was hanging the washing. He normally visited us on the verandah where he grew up, at the front of the house. I thought at the clothesline was an odd place for him to be. A three metre drop just under where he sat was a typical place for snakes, and even the snake catcher reminded me a few times. “Dry leaves under shady dry quiet place with both sunny and dark nooks – a snake haven” he said with a grin. I suppose one day, I would cut everything down, but I didn’t have the heart to  damage the place. Both the pythons and brown snakes were removed by snake catchers from this spot and taken to the park. Currently, a baby green tree snake lives there – he is only 50cm long and suns itself on the back verandah often.

Near the umbrella tree where rainbow lorikeets gathered, Kaz would fly low onto the mango tree branches and tell me long-winded tales while I hung the washing or tended to my garden. I wished I understood him. The changes in the pitch and his excitement showed there was some important things happening in his life, but all I could do was respond in whistles, PNG pidgin and make my own sounds so he knew I was listening. He always responded cheerfully. Often he would hop onto the clothesline for a few minutes before he flew away.

DSC_0937-1
Kaz in his element, as he watches over his family.

One day, two weeks ago I heard a baby bird cry and a soothing motherly response just above the clothes line. I heard these cries start a month ago. It was louder and closer. It sounded like a baby parrot in the umbrella tree, but I could not see it. The giant leaves hid the birds. I also did not know what type of parrot it was, but I suspected a rainbow lorikeet because these birds loved the spiky flower of the umbrella tree which turns into fruit.

A week went by and I noticed my feathered son Kaz coming out of the same tree. He usually slept in the palm and the gum trees in front of the house.  At the house, he came alone and stayed longer than five minutes which was his usual visiting time. He also chased baby parrot Boz out of its cage and ate the crumbs. Katz often stayed in the cage for a while longer. He was unaccompanied. His female partner was nowhere to be seen. Since he had left home, Kaz always flew with her. I wondered if she ditched him which wouldn’t have surprised me because Kaz could get rowdy and demanding at times. Last week, he flew down to me when I arrived home and flew straight back into the umbrella tree and made so much noise. He called loudly and whistled. I followed him and could hear the baby bird as well.

DSC_0892-1
Mother and baby take a moment under the leaves of the umbrella tree.

Under the clothesline I listened. I saw Kaz on the branch, his partner and a baby bird. I was so surprised, but my thoughts went back to how little he was and how he just fitted in my hand when he first came to us. Kaz could not stop talking and shouting. I stared at him realising I had become a grandmother. That was what all the clothesline storytelling was about a week ago. At that moment, my excitement and sense of pride felt like I could easily fly up to the umbrella tree. I could not tell anyone about Kaz’s news as I was alone. I felt strangely moved and wanted to hug Kaz and tell him I was proud. But he is the wild thing he is supposed to be, and I just hope he can see how happy I am for him.

Over the week, I watched Kaz’s family and how attentive the parents were; keeping their little one safely in the large leaves of the umbrella tree. They protected the baby from crows, kookaburra and other large birds. Kaz visited the house daily to bring ‘take-aways’ of honey, bread, fruit and seeds back to the nest.

DSC_0927 (1)-3
First family outing.

Today, almost a month after I heard that baby bird, a rare moment presented itself when the whole family flew to another umbrella tree 20 metres away. It happened while I was walking in the back. I quickly ran back into the house to fetch my camera. The lighting was terrible and the shots were fleeting, but I am happy to share some rare images of my feathered family. Life can give you joy in the most interesting ways.

 

 

Latin Skirts of Orchids – Photography


DSC_0847

When the Cattleya orchid bloom, the petals remind me of watercolour on paper. Translucent layers, flow the streams into each other. Lights, waiting to burst in unseemly angles. The orchid’s veins like fine ice crystals are so delicate that it bruises to touch; such a complete contrast to its thick leathery dull green leaves.

DSC_0849

Inside, many secrets are kept. But who is to know…

DSC_0857

When you are up close to a Cattleya, there are so many things to look at and the mind can play tricks on you. I get lost in the ‘skirts’, the twists of the lines, and ruffled ends of its petals that tilt like a Latin dancer’s skirt. Sometimes the ruffles can look like bird feathers.

DSC_0863-1

It is not hard to see a Latin dancer stretch her legs and throws the ruffled hem back, leaving the wind and the music to take her. Round and round in her twists and turns until the last note, a high-pitched violin is played to bring her home.

DSC_0838

DSC_0837

DSC_0861

DSC_0834

That note is also the mosquito humming in my ear as it bites me.  I know I am staring at the orchid under the tree outside my house. Show is over.

 

 

Moving Out – Penelope Leaves Home


The Goddess’s First Social Day

DSC_0807
Goddess Penelope soaking up the wild.

Almost six weeks ago we found a duckling, just a few days old, left in our swimming pool by her parents. She has now grown up and is moving out of our house with some of her new friends. I was getting a little emotional with this story so I had to remove myself and put the story away for two days. The storm in Brisbane last night put my internet off, so I could not post on this blog.

This is the third time we raised a wild duckling, so we know that life changes when you take helpless animals into your home.  They become part of the family before you know it. It may be because we have become so attentive to such animals that my sons and I have learnt this duckling’s habits; her favourite place to sit, her favourite weed and her specific cries for different things, similar to a human baby. I found myself finishing work and rushing outside to pick her favourite weeds in the surroundings of my workplace. I have seen people walk or drive by and give me funny looks. It was worth it when I got home and she rushed to me and ripped the weeds out of my hands.

DSC_0130-1

Anyway, it has been over a month since we rescued Goddess Penelope (pictured above). She also turned out to be a female, even though we named her a little early without knowing her sex (see previous post).

Penelope grew up quickly and took to our chickens right away. The other wild ducks gave her scornful looks, pecked and chased her. This behaviour happened with the previous ducklings we had saved, before the flock eventually accepted the house-raised ducks.

The last three days have brought major changes for Penelope. It was her moving out phase. The duckling took to the water and the bushland in  front of our property easily.  An older male duck hung around nearby. I told my sons the male duck could be a stalker watching her, and my sons argued that it could be her father. Who is to know? I guess I was being an over-protective parent, but I am worried. Penelope has had a tough life so far.

DSC_0204
The three silkies.

Once we introduced her to the other birds, the other wild ducks chased and pecked her and in turn, she chased and pecked our chickens. The regular chickens did not entertain her cheekiness, but soft feathery Silky Batemans (silkies) could not get away from her. The silkies as the Australians call them,  are slow, soft and cuddly birds.

DSC_0954
Her own flock chased her and Penelope chased the Silky Bateman chickens.

Initially Penelope tried to talk to them, walk and sit with them. Then she pecked them, often holding up clumps of feathers in her beak. She got a lot of lectures from me, but we all had to be patient.

Her behaviour scared the silkies and for hours she would run behind them while they fled across the backyard over the weekend. I tried to stop her, but she would run in between the silkies and this confused the chickens even more. The silkies thought I was chasing them too. At the end of her first day out – Penelope was ready to sleep in the chicken pen, with the silkies, but they would not let her in.

DSC_0958
Penelope desperately tried to stay with the three silkies.

After the third day and a stormy night last night, the silkies gave in to Penelope’s charms. The silkies are all males too. The black silky (pictured above) has become her guardian. He shares his food with her.

Today, I tried to lure Penelope with her favourite weeds, but she did not eat any, because the silkies did not like the weeds. She gave me ‘the eye’ like she was saying – “what are you trying to do?” Maybe I embarrassed her, just like I do to my sons sometimes – the awkward teenager thing …

She has to grow up, and I know she is tough and she will survive in the wild. Penelope waits at the cage each evening to be put away for the night with the silkies. In a way, she has officially moved out. She does not make any crying sounds. Penelope has found her temporary home, where she will stay in the meantime until she can fly. My son Nathan commented that, Penelope wants so much to be with the silkies, that he half expects the teenage duck to start crowing in the morning with the three roosters.

The silkies live in a pen which is closed in so  they don’t get attacked by foxes and snakes. In the evenings, they huddle in this corner and wait to be placed inside the cage and locked up. Here are some pictures from Penelope’s first day when she tried to get to spend the night with the chickens.

DSC_0206
I was calling the Goddess and she was nowhere to be found, until I spotted her next to the silkies.
DSC_0208
When I insisted she came to me, she rose and faced the other way – ignoring me.
DSC_0219
I approached and she dived into the middle of the three silkies.
DSC_0229
Penelope pushed her way in, disappearing into the chicken feathers.
DSC_0231
After a few minutes, the silkies kicked her out. But later, when I picked them all up and put them back in their cage, the silkies let her spend the night with them.