Tag Archives: story-telling

Living My Mother’s Dream – Beauty Within (PNG) Art Exhibition


Beauty Within PNG Art Exhibition

“Anticipation” – watercolour JKLeahy Art©

On November 14th, 2017, in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (PNG), I will show 50 pieces of my watercolours, mixed media and art studies, making this show the first fine art solo exhibition for any Papua New Guinea female artist.

On this final project for the year 2017, I will live my mother, Freda Kauc’s dream. Her dream was that I become an artist full-time. She said I had worked enough (over twenty years as a volunteer) in the capacity of an arts curator for other PNG and Pacific artists. My mother also said, I had the right to practice and show my own art. She also said the general work-place environment for any work was becoming harsh and toxic and she couldn’t see me there for long.  I hate to admit it, but she was right.

“Ting ting” – (“Thinking”) – Mixed media on paper. JKLeahy Art©

My mother had believed art making was my true calling and persisted for over 20 years. Art is part of my life, beginning with my early years with my mother, her extended family, and the people from Wagang Village. I had taken part in several different art practices, including, but not restricted to contemporary and cultural performance arts, music, photography, writing, installation art, crafts and now painting. It was never as a “job”, or something I could make money from. Art making for me until now was purely for joy. One cousin asked once, “why are you wasting your time (on art)?’ How could I have answered that in one sentence, so I said, “you wouldn’t understand cous.”

I remember what I wanted to be when I grew up and that was to be a dancer. I danced with my people in our cultural performances and later with other groups from PNG and into the PNG National Theatre company. But, I ended up being a journalist and then a curator. I was scheming on the edges of art making, but I continued to pencil sketch and show my mother. This annoyed her. When I was pregnant with my first son, in 1994, I needed to get out of corporate and relax so I took acrylic lessons every Saturday and really loved it, but drawing was my number one love. We moved to Australia in 2004, and my mother visited in 2006. I started a drawing class, but one student said, “you should teach” so I dropped out and took watercolour class with our community education. I showed my mother the washes. I painted a PNG portrait in watercolour my mother and I named “Agnes” because she reminded us of an Agnes. I sold this picture in an exhibition. My mother told me to make more to sell, but I wouldn’t. I was not confident.

Mama came back to Brisbane in 2008, 2010 and 2011 where she made me put some work in other exhibitions. I sold them. Once one of my work ended in an auction and I got more money for it then I thought.

“I told you so,” my mother said. I argued it wasn’t enough to pay of the mortgage.

In 2016, she came to Brisbane again for a visit and I extended her visa to 12 months. I told her I needed to finish my memoir, and she said I needed to paint. She had a good amount of time on her hands to make me make art while we told stories and i sent away job applications.

January 2017,  after losing my last pathetic job in administration with an Aged Care organisation, I began my mother’s dream and my new journey with fear and hesitation. I’m still looking for work. I am unemployed and the art takes my mind away to good places. The art making also made the fear go away eventually. The unknown combined with fear of failure gnaws at me but I continue to paint. My mother sat up late into the mornings, knitting her bags while I was painting and washing studies of various subjects as we spoke about the memoir. I posted a few of those washes here, on this blog.

Mama Graun. Watercolour. JKLeahy Art©

The longer, I could not get employment, the more my mother relished at the opportunity for me to practice my art. By February 2017, I landed an art commission work with a large business. I had donated one of my painting image to a petroleum conference and later a cousin showed the work to her bosses.  When I was engaged, the client asked me to paint a watercolour four times larger than what I usually painted. And just like my mother would have said, when I told the client, “I have never made art that big”, my client replied: “Why not?”

The same client went on to say: “You were meant for this work (painting)”.

I suddenly realised, I was stopping myself; both the client and my mother were right. I had built a skill for twenty years or more, and not used it to its full potential. I believed ‘work” was in an office.

I began working out ways to paint my client’s order and even had to contact Arches in France to get watercolour paper cut large enough to paint on; regular store sizing was too small. Arches referred me to a supplier Parkers, in Sydney. And my son cut a board large enough of the paper. This didn’t fit the dining table, but I could stick it under the trees and paint during the day. It was good to paint in nature and the drying was quick between washes.

Six large paintings were done to my own disbelief and off it went to Singapore. The client loved it. From then on, I could not hear the end of my mother’s reminders, and her “I told you so’s”.

And soon after the Singapore job, I was invited to show my work at Redlands Performance Arts in the Wantok Melanesia Showcase and now the solo exhibition in PNG.

Thank you to this amazing woman, Freda Kauc for making her dream my reality. I’m loving it so much. Thank you Mama. The details of my solo exhibition is on the poster. Part of my sales will be donated to two children’s charity organisation in PNG. I will launch my limited edition art prints on a separate website in December. I would like to sincerely thank my sponsors for the First Female PNG Solo Art Exhibition: Royal Papua Yacht Club, Moore Printing, Frameshop, Whittaker, Kalem, Air Niugini, Rocky Roe Photographics, Daisy Taylor, and all friends and family members that have assisted me.

(Ps – I will be away from the blog for two weeks from next week).

Media coverage so far:

Loop-PNG

LinkedIn

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Song of the Turtle – Children’s Story


Winner of the Paga Hill Development Company Award for Writing for Children in The 2015 Crocodile Prize.

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JK.Leahy© Illustration in Pen on paper. 2015.

The Song of the Turtle – ©JK.Leahy Children’s Story

THE night was still and dark. Dogs did not bark. The wind blew gently.

Children and babies had stopped crying and laid their heads to rest. Even the night birds were silent around the coastal Morobe village.

Below the whistle of the gentle breeze, Kalem heard a song. It was soft, beautiful and so sad it almost made her cry. It sounded very familiar.

Lying still on her woven pandanus mat that grandma made for her, she searched through her memories – where has she heard this song? Her grandma had passed away last year. She missed her. After tossing and turning for what seemed like forever, Kalem knew she had to find out.

She picked up her mother’s torch. Beside the torch was a piece of hard shell, a turtle shell she found on the beach. She kept it for good luck. Suddenly she remembered – the song! It was the song of the turtles. Their nesting time happens near Kalem’s birthday, but they have not come to her village for a long time.

Tonight, something was wrong. Grandma said only the mother turtle sang the turtle song. No one in the village knew that song except her grandmother, mother and now her. Grandma sung and taught the song to Kalem while they were fishing. “Who is singing it now?” Kalem wondered.

Afraid but excited, Kalem headed to the beach. As she walked, she remembered Grandma’s words: “Our people are connected to the ocean, we fish to survive but we must respect the lives in the ocean. We must never kill for nothing.”

Not many people can connect to the animals and fish, but grandma said their family had a special gift because their ancestors came from the sea and are tied to the ways of the sea. Kalem walked quickly along the beach as she listened for the song.

“If you ever hear the song Kalem, you know, Mother Turtle needs you”, her grandmother told her. When Kalem was born in the turtle season, grandma told her mother – “this girl would one day meet Mother Turtle”.

Kalem followed the song out of her village and along the shores, further and further away from her house. Her heart beat faster when she arrived at the river where the villagers washed. Where the river met the sea, villagers set fishing nets along the shoreline. Kalem heard a loud splash. She slowly stepped forward, flashing the torch.

Tied to a large driftwood stump on the beach was a long, green fishing net. On the calm water surface, a big red buoy floated just offshore, and at the end of the net.

Something had been caught in the net. The thing splashed again. It rippled and frothed the seawater in a circle. It was large, dark and nearby the shore. It did not look like any fish or crocodile Kalem knew.

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Photo Digital illustration image JKLeahy ©

When she flashed the torch at the dark shape, she was shocked to find a very large sea turtle tangled in the net. It was so large, Kalem was sure it must have been the mother of all turtles. Kalem flashed the torch on the water.

She could see smaller turtles floating about, their heads bobbing in the water. The turtles circled the net. They were all making strange noises like they were crying too. The mother turtle was bigger than Kalem’s ten-year-old body, but Kalem had to try save to her.

Even with no strength left, the mother turtle kept singing her song. Weakly, her tired flippers hit the net and her voice faded to almost a whisper. Kalem’s tears flowed down as she waded through the water quickly and tried to set the turtle free. After struggling with the net and the weight of the turtle, Kalem ran back to the village and woke her mother.

“Help, wake up!” Kalem cried. “It’s Mother Turtle – we must help her”.

Kalem’s mother was confused. Often she thought her daughter was a daydreamer. After Kalem calmed herself and explained, she grabbed her mother’s arm and led her back to the beach. They took a knife and cut the net to set the mother turtle free. The large turtle swam up to Kalem and her mother. She bumped them with her nose before she and the other turtles disappeared into the deep, dark waters.

Kalem remembered grandma telling her about the life of the mother turtle. Grandma said it took many years before the turtle was ready to make babies. Every two or three years, the mother turtle leads her group to her own nesting beach, where she was born. Sometimes she travelled long distances to get there. Usually she would lay over a hundred eggs, but only a few survived.

Other animals, people and large fish eat the eggs and baby turtles. Kalem’s people loved eating turtle eggs and meat. Their village was once a nesting ground for turtles. Lately, less and less turtles have come to lay eggs. Standing silently in the dark with her mother, Kalem thought of how scared the turtles were tonight.

“They might never return…we must teach our people to protect the turtles”, she whispered to her mother.

“I am so proud of you Kalem. The turtles will head to a safe place to lay their eggs. Maybe this was not the right place for them, but they will find a perfect home some day”.

Her mother held Kalem close as they headed back to the village.

Crocodile Prize Anthology cover

The Crocodile Prize 2015 Anthology is out on Amazon

PNG Literary Competition Achieves Record Entries.


The Papua New Guinea Literary Competition The Crocodile Prize received the highest number of entries ever, this year.  On closing last night the Crocodile Prize fetched a total 826 entries from 132 writers & illustrators.

Poetry 355; Essay 196; Story 129; Children 52; Heritage 48; Illustration 21; Tourism Arts Culture 15; Book of the Year 10.

These numbers may not sound very much for writers in other countries, but for any Papua New Guinean writer, it is a very heart-warming news, especially coming from a literary culture that almost became extinct. In the early 70s, leading up to the country’s independence, passion for art, culture and heritage including the literary pursuits and publishing of works written by PNG writers were at their peak. It is not quite clear why the interests have fallen so much after independence. That culture may have been used because we were proud of our identity and we wanted independence so much or perhaps the general growth of consumerism and the wider issues of social, economic and political changes have contributed to this new – lack of passion of culture. I remember growing up with radio stories written by PNG writers, attending and being part of stage plays – written by PNG writers. Poetry, stories, essays as well as other forms of literary work were promoted and supported by the national government.

The lack of passion in the arts and the literary support to me is quite surprising and sad; our culture is based on oral history and story-telling.

As a PNG writer, a practicing artist and an arts curator, it seems very clear to me, that the PNG government’s priority is elsewhere and not the least in the arts. But to not even support the literary aspect and especially in developing educational content that is relevant to our children and educational for our people is wrong. We cannot just tell stories and pass them on – now we can write them down and keep for many years.

It is not how much minerals we export and logs we sell, but the natural beauty, our rich art, culture, languages and stories that set PNG apart, and gives us our unique identity.  The literary scene dwindled to almost non-existent, although that could have been easily combined with and taught through the education system. There are not many avenues and support nor funding where PNG writers could train or share their work, and even to sell. Most workshops, training and activities relating to creative writing or any literary work have been Aid funded or Privately sponsored in the past four decades. Now this is how things have started to change for the PNG literary scene.

THE CROCODILE PRIZE STORY
The Crocodile Prize was established in 2010 by Phil Fitzpatrick and Keith Jackson, (both Australians) worked for many years in Papua New Guinea; Fitzpatrick as a patrol officer, Jackson as a broadcaster and journalist.

The Prize evolved from the popular PNG Attitude blog, which has a policy of encouraging and publishing Papua New Guinean contributors.

The concept of a national literary competition was triggered by Fitzpatrick’s concern that creative writing in Papua New Guinea had fallen upon hard times, and that this was a cultural constraint needing to be addressed.

The first awards were presented in 2011, a year of determining whether or not a project of this kind could be managed successfully given geographical, financial and the constraints of a voluntary organisation.

Using PNG Attitude as a vehicle for publicity and initial publication, Fitzpatrick and Jackson soon discovered an enthusiastic and rapidly emerging body of Papua New Guinean writers.

They were assisted greatly in the early stages by material and financial support provided by the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby and later by a range of sponsors, most of them PNG-based.

This backing made it possible for a range of associated activities to be instituted in addition to the Prize, including an awards ceremony, the publication of an annual anthology and the initiation of writers’ forums.

After the first awards in September 2011, it was agreed the Prize should become a permanent part of the literary landscape of PNG. Now under the management of the Crocodile Prize Organisation, COG, 2015 will mark its fifth year of operations.

PHIL FITZPATRICK on 2015 Competition

Thus ends another year of the Crocodile Prize literary contest.

IT’S not every day that you get to influence the revival of literature in a whole country, unintentionally or otherwise.

I must admit to some surprise that it has happened at all. What started as a humble writing competition seems to have bloomed beyond all expectations.

There is a sense of pride in what has happened but, strangely, it’s not personal. Rather it is a sense of pride in the achievements of the writers involved.

At a personal level it has been more of a humbling experience. There is also a sense of awe and enrichment.

The enrichment comes from reading the works submitted to the competition and the sheer learning experience involved.

I think, despite nearly fifty years travelling back and forth to the country, I’ve really only learned to understand Papua New Guinea in the last few years of the Crocodile Prize.

There is also a tinge of anger involved, mostly through the fact that an uninterested government and lackadaisical education system could let such a promising and rich cultural emergence in the 1970s wilt on the vine and become moribund.

That aside, one of the ironies I really enjoy is the fact that the revival has only now been possible because of the advent of digital technologies that were supposed to see the demise and eventual extinction of books. Such are the shaky prognostications of the doomsayers.

The key factors in the Papua New Guinean revival have been the Internet and the availability of digital publishing and print-on-demand technologies.

These have underpinned the Crocodile Prize, firstly by providing a writers’ outlet in the form of PNG Attitude and secondly in offering a cheap way to publish the best in an annual anthology and then to go even further in publishing stand-alone individual books by Papua New Guineans.

The future of literature in Papua New Guinea is starting to look rosy but we need to remind ourselves that it is still extremely fragile.

The disastrous complacency of the 2013 competition organisers reminds us of what could still happen.

2014-15 has been a watershed year and there’s light at the end of the tunnel but sustainability is still a long way off and we aren’t there yet by any stretch of the imagination.

The winners of this year’s Crocodile Prize will be announced early September. The awards event will be held in Kundiawa on Saturday 19 September

Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude

My Last Walk – Short Story.


This is my second entry into the short story category in PNG National Literary Awards. Some of you know this story. It has been cut down to 1000 word limit.   For more stories and entries into the competition, please visit the following links;

The Crocodile Prize

Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude

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Western Province, PNG.

My Last Walk  ©JK.Leahy

I felt his eyes piercing into my back as I struggled over the grassy hill. The air was tight and chilly so early in the morning.

“Walk faster!”

I needed my three-month-old baby Boni’s softness, and the laughter of his older siblings. I was exhausted and wished I could stop. A sudden breeze brushed over the tall grass. Shoosh. I shivered.

Usually, when we returned from the garden, Bomoga walked proudly ahead, carrying his prized spear with a small bilum strapped across his bare chest. The children and I fumbled behind him: me with a child on my shoulder, another in the bilum on my back together with our second bilum of food and pulling our eldest by the hand.

Today, I was in front. I wore my favourite red meri blouse. In haste, I had worn it inside out – its flimsy seams waved loosely.

We reached the top of Kasu Hill. I gasped for air.

“Hurry Up!”

My heart pumped. From the only hill in Domogu Village in the wallaby plains of the Western Province, pale yellow-green lowland laid before me. The grass had been burnt in patches to entrap wild game. The lowland was also known for Papuan black, a deadly snake.

I marched down the ridge, as ordered. Cold mud numbed my sore foot. We reached the place where the Ok Tedi Mining had caused hundreds of fish and plants to die along the riverbank. Usually, there were people here. But it was still early – no one was about as we passed.

My milk dripped down my blouse. Without bra, my breasts swung full and uncomfortable. It was feeding time for Boni. The rising sun cast faint shadows and the warm air caressed my face. We had crossed Domogu tribal land. Bomoga’s ancestors, nomads like mine, had decided to settle in this fertile land.

My eyes scanned the mountains that Ok Tedi had exploited. To the south, there was an airstrip where planes flew in weekly. Our village looked like a jewel, deep jade opal, festooned with glassy lakes of many sizes.

“Move!”

I stumbled forward.

We entered a forest. Strangely, the birds here were silent. I heard sorcerers came here for bush medicine and magic making. I searched for sunlight through the tree openings.

“Keep walking,” he hissed.

I had not looked once in Bomoga’s eyes. When his sweaty hands had touched me that morning, I thought he wanted sex, but instead he shook me roughly and ordered me out of the house. His shadow had loomed over me as I took Boni off my breast and put on my meri blouse and my rubber skirt. Boni nestled into his blanket, eyes still shut. He didn’t cry for more milk, thank God. My other children, Eka and Maria were asleep. I heard Bomoga pick up something in the house before closing the door behind us. He was quiet and cagey, which was not like him.

He was never a warm person, not even to his family members, though he was loud to his male friends. He liked sex that was rough and on demand. In any argument, a sudden punch to my face or stomach was a possibility. If the children screamed, he yelled at them. The beatings only worsened if he thought I challenged him. “No one will help you, because you are MY wife,” he said. I felt he was right and did not seek help, not even from his family or other villagers. Recently his best friend Tommy had returned from Port Moresby. I heard Bomogu now liked Tommy’s sister who was younger and prettier than me. He wanted her, I heard.

I stepped on a stump with my sore foot. The pain almost made me cry out. Two of my toes had broken when I fell in the last fight. We continued through the gloomy undergrowth into a flat area. Through an opening I saw sunlight sprinkling light of various colours onto leaves and moss. I saw a beautiful butterfly on a fern. Its brilliant blue wings and black outline set against the leafy greens. I felt a flash of hope.

We walked on and soon I could hear rapids and the forest thinned out as we reached a Y junction. At my feet a Papuan black, unaware, slithered quickly across my path.

“Turn to the river,” Bomoga commanded.

I turned towards the rapids. My throbbing foot distracted me and I was afraid to fall. The river frothed, full from recent rain. Watching water as it rushed away, a thought stirred my mind. Was he going to toss me into the river?

I imagined where my body would lay after death; my treasured red meri blouse, still inside out, clinging to my slim frame. Dragged ashore with a paddle shafted under the hem of my blouse, a trail would be imprinted on the sand on the silky Suki River banks. Villagers rushed to screaming children who discovered me. A woman bellowed my name, “Sulita!, Sulita!” But after hours in the muddy river, half-dressed and impaled by a black palm spear, I would no longer be Sulita.

“Stop!” he yelled.

I halted.

The ground looked easy to dig in places. I kept my face down. My feet were covered in mud and grass

“Turn around. Look at me!”

I turned and raised my eyes to the point of his most prized black palm spear.

With this spear Bomoga had speared the biggest pig, the fastest wallaby and driven the largest cull of deer. Many feared Bomoga because of his mastery with the weapon. My eyes shifted from the spear to my husband’s eyes for the first time that day. They were bulging and blood-rimmed. His nose flared and his sweat drenched eyebrows twitched. Ten long years and we still stared at each other like strangers.

He raised and pointed with the spear. “Where would you like to be buried?” he asked.

I dropped to my knees, closed my eyes and prayed.

 


This story is based on a true story set in Suki, Western Province. It is dedicated to the strong women and the survivors of domestic violence in Papua New Guinea and other Melanesian societies. 

 

 

How the Cassowary Became a Flightless Bird – A PNG Legend


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Public Domain image

While described as one of the most dangerous birds in the world, cassowaries are beautiful large flightless birds. I have posted a story about threats to cassowaries in Northern Queensland due to their habitat destruction. Read Here. I had mentioned the value of cassowaries in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in that post and I wanted to show what this bird means to our  people. This legend comes from Garaina, in Morobe Province. I also come from Morobe. The legend was contributed to a national high school collection of legends told Stephen Suij.

How the Cassowary became a Flightless BirdA Legend from the Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea.

Long ago, the cassowary was a big bird with a long neck, large legs and big wings which enabled it to fly like all other birds of the forest.

At that time, the cassowary and the hornbill were best friends, and spent most of their time flying around together, feeding on the delicious fruits at the top of the trees.

They were very close friends, but as time passed, the hornbill became increasingly jealous of the cassowary, who with his long neck could stretch and reach the best of the fruit pickings. The poor hornbill had to be content with leftovers.

While the hornbill hid his jealousy, he began to plan a trick to punish the cassowary.

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A Hornbill Picture by Waterdragon62 – Flickr Photo-sharing

One day the hornbill broke two dried sticks off a tree branch, placed them beneath each wing, under its feathers, and then flew off meet the cassowary.

“I have an idea”, the hornbill said to the cassowary.

“After we have fed on the fruit and are fully satisfied, let us do some stylish tricks in the air to see who is more brave and skilled.”

“Sure”, the cassowary said – liking the idea.

“But”, added the hornbill, “each of us must break his wings to see how far he can fly with broken wings.”

The cassowary had no objection to this ‘idea’, so when they had eaten enough fruit, they were ready for the game. The hornbill volunteered to go first.

Pretending to break his two wings, he snapped the two dry sticks beneath his wings and then flew away. He performed some stylish tricks in the air and then flew to a nearby tree to perch. The hornbill then called the cassowary to try to outwit his tricks.

The cassowary, ignoring the pain he had to suffer, broke his wings, one by one. Then he stretched the wings to fly away but he only crashed to the ground. He could not lift his weight with broken wings.

The hornbill broke into laughter at the top of his voice he said, “you have always had the most and the best of the fruit, but now you can stay on the ground and feed on my waste while I enjoy the best of the forest.”

From that day until today, the cassowary has been a bird of the ground, with wings that could not fly.

The Cassowary – Papua New Guinea

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Public Domain image

Flightless Feathered Family
The cassowaries are ratites, very large flightless birds in the genus Casuarius native to the tropical forests of Papua New Guinea, nearby islands and northeastern Australia. There are three extant species recognized today.

The most common of these, the Southern Cassowary, is the third tallest and second heaviest living bird, smaller only than the ostrich and emu.

Cassowaries (from the Malay name kesuari)[3] are part of the ratite group, which also includes the Emu, rheas, ostriches, and kiwis, and the extinct moas and elephant birds. The other two species are the Northern Cassowary, Casuarius unappendiculatus and Dwarf Cassowary, Casuarius bennetti. They are also found in Papua New Guinea.

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A PNG warrior wearing a cassowary feather headdress. Picture by Brent Stirton

Cassowaries are very important to the native people of New Guinea both economically and ritually. Cassowaries have been traded for pigs and even as bride price for a wife and compensation payment especially in the highlands provinces .

Some tribes hunt them for their meat which is considered a delicacy. They use the feathers to decorate headdresses, and the feather quills for earrings. The sharp claws are often placed at the tips of arrows, while the strong leg bones are used as daggers.

For many native people, cassowaries are full of legends and mystical powers. Some tribes believe that cassowaries are reincarnations of female ancestors, while others believe that the cassowary is the primal mother. These tribes do not hunt or deal in trade with cassowaries.

A HD Movie on Cassowaries narrated by David Attenborough on Natural World BBC.

Premio Dardos Award – Value Added to Blogging World


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At the end of April I was nominated by the lovely Lisa W Tetting for the Premio Dardos Award. I was ill at that time and was unable to write a post about it. I am now catching up on some of those writing that needs to be done and I would like to thank you very much Lisa for nominating my blog for this award. I am deeply honoured that you are of the opinion I have added value to the blogging world.

Please visit Lisa’s blog, Rebirth of Lisa.

Since Lisa’s nomination, I have also been nominated for other blog awards. I will respond to your nominations in the next two weeks between my regular posts.

What is Premio Dardos Award?

The Premio Dardos Award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in their effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values every day.  As per Lisa’s words, these stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web. Since I launched my blog 18 months ago and followed many other blogs here on WordPress, I have grown as a writer and a person. I have also shared knowledge I learnt here to my friends and family.

I have also made friends with many bloggers on WordPress and these connections mean a lot to me.

The Premio Dardos Award are simple:

1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his or her blog.
2) Include the image of the “Premios Dardos” in the post.
3) Pass the award to another 15 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement.

The nominees below have contributed in some way to the cultural, ethical, literary, and my personal values. (Please note that some of my nominees are award-free but they are worth mentioning. I hope you can visit and read some of their interesting posts).

My nominees are:

Beauty Along the Road

Radiance Project NZ

Millie Thom

Pacific Paratrooper

How the Cookie Crumbles

Chris the Story Reading Ape

The Rattling Bones

alphastare

Confedcontessa

yadadarcyyada

Author Joel Savage

Life in Russia

ESGEE Musing

First Night Design

Whole Production

 

 

 

 

 

Living in the Trees – The Korowai People


A life of contentment in the rainforest. The Korowai People of West Papua in Melanesia.

Irian Jaya's Kombai and Korowai people live in houses built in the treetops.
Irian Jaya’s Kombai and Korowai people live in houses built in the treetops.

Living in the trees is natural for the Korowai and Kombai people in  the southern eastern Papua. These tribal Melanesians are one of the last people on the planet who survive purely on their natural environment. The Korowai’s are also referred to as the Kolufo and have become known to the world through pictures and documentaries as one of the most amazing architects of tree houses.

The tree house builders survive in the basin of the Brazzan River in large areas of deep rainforest and swampy lowland. They are hunter-gatherers and horticulturists who practice shift-cultivation and have a very rich and an extraordinary oral tradition. They live together in small communities.

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Image: BBC Documentary

The higher they built a house, the more prestigious it is. The reason behind this amazing architecture which often reaches up to 100 feet or more off the ground is to avoid floods, insects and diseases. It was also a way to spot tribal enemies as the Korowai themselves had practiced cannibalism in the past.

Sowayen climbing down a “yambim” or ironwood tree after knocking loose a nest of black ants that he uses for fish bait. The Korowai are superb climbers, and get up thick trees like this by gripping vines with their hands and splayed toes. It took him about a minute to get up this tree, and it took Neeld Messler, a rope expert, over an hour to rig this tree with ropes so the photographer could climb it safely. In the lower left corner Sayah is watching. One of their fishing methods is to put a piece of an ant nest in the water and wait for the fish to come and eat the drowning ants. The fisherman hides behind foliage on the river bank, and shoots the fish with a four-pointed arrow. This picture was taken as part of an expedition for GEO Magazine and National Geographic Magazine to document the way of life of the Korowai tribe. Most of the Korowai in these photos had never had prior contact with anyone outside of their language group, and have no material goods from the outside world. They live in tree houses built above the forest floor to protect themselves from outsiders. The Korowai believe that contact with outsiders will bring an end to their culture. Cannibalism has been part of their traditional system of criminal justice to avenge the death of their clansmen, but the practice is dying out and is outlawed by the Indonesian government. The Korowai believe that most natural deaths are caused by sorcery, and must be avenged by the death (and consumption) of the person responsible.
Sowayen climbing down a “yambim” or ironwood tree after knocking loose a nest of black ants that he uses for fish bait. The Korowai are superb climbers, and get up thick trees like this by gripping vines with their hands and splayed toes. This picture was taken as part of an expedition for GEO Magazine and National Geographic Magazine to document the way of life of the Korowai tribe.

The Korowai people build their houses high above the forest floor, and deep in the swampy lowland jungles of Papua.

In the BBC documentary below, you can watch from start to finish, how a Korowai tree house is built.

The Eye of the Storm – Short Story


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Picture by Barbara W. Beacham

Mondays Finish the Story is a flash fiction challenge by Barbara W. Beacham. Here is my story for this week’s prompt in the first sentence below and in reference to the above picture. 

The Eye of the Storm ©JK Leahy short stories

Zeus was not having a good day and he made sure everyone knew it. Mack was a mess as soon as Zeus got going.

“Get me a cleaver…”

“Nooooo! Pleease! Oh god – I’m sorry!” Mack sobbed and gurgled as I ran to boss’s collection for a blade. I almost dropped it; my legs could barely keep up.

As Zeus’ knuckles tightened to white around the knife handle, I desperately avoided his predatory gaze, leering at me through the lightning bolt tattoo across his right eye.

“Now, get out” he growled. I didn’t linger.

Mack had hidden Zeus’s package as well as the money. He lied. I warned him that Zeus would not buy it. The kid messed up.

I wondered why you’d risk losing some fingers for a few bucks, and then I heard a chop. Mack’s screams battered the walls of the warehouse, and the echoes shook my bones. I guess you never quite get used to working for a psychopath.

(149 words)

Johnny Colours Miami Streets – Cool Stuff


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Johnny Robles an artist, creates cool street art in the streets of Miami. With a mixture of cartoon and pop style drawings and graffiti techniques, he gives color to the streets. Residents say they love it..and so do I.

Featured here at work where some of his cool stuff happens.

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