Tag Archives: Women

Princess is a Mother Again


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Princess, facing the camera leads her daughters into our yard for breakfast.

Good news. Princess, our home-raised wild duck who lost all her family members, returned with eight ducklings. More on her story in tomorrow’s post.

 

Magda’s Luck – Short Story


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Picture by Barbara W. Beacham

Mondays Finish the Story is a unique flash fiction challenge where Barbara Beacham provides a new photo and the first sentence of a story each week. The challenge is to finish the story using 100-150 words, not including the sentence provided. This challenge runs from Monday to Sunday.

Magda’s Luck – Short Story © JKLeahy

At first, it looked like an ordinary marble, but it was far from it. Magda got to it, reached down awkwardly and picked it up. It was big and heavy.

Years of factory work damaged her back. Magda longed for an easy way to survive. The ball was larger than a cricket ball yet smaller than a soccer ball.

“Perrr-fect!” she smiled to herself and wiped off the red dirt.

This was a sign. She closed her eyes in prayer. She has seen it done in the markets with no truth in it and told Chek. Besides, who would know? Her husband Chek died last year.

With her gypsy olive skin, a pair of wild gooseberry eyes set against her greyish black hair, Magda was ready.

She pushed her Coles trolley to Brisbane’s West End markets. Already she could predict her own future. Her years of struggle are about to end in a few hours when she starts her new career  – predicting people’s futures.

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.

Brooding Storm – Short Story


Mondays Finish the Story by Barbara Beacham

This is a flash fiction challenge where Barbara W. Beacham offers a picture and the first sentence of the story. Based on the photograph and the first sentence, one must come up with a 100-150 word short story.

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Picture by Barbara W. Beacham

BROODING STORM © JK. Leahy

The crew of the Angel Flame received orders to head out. When Yakov and Marishka reach the secluded Russian base, most men had already boarded.

Marishka wiped her tired eyes as her husband walked to the submarine, leaving her, their newborn Polinka and their sick two-year-old, Boris. It was a dreary Friday at 5am; three lost seagulls skirted past Yakov, fleeing the brooding storm.

After Yakov’s head vanished into the submarine, Marishka left – four hours later the snowstorm hit. The radio announced that nobody was hurt. Marishka medicated and monitored Boris’s temperature.

The next day at 7am she heard a knock. It was persistent. Unwrapping herself from Polinka, she reached for her gown.

Marishka caught a glimpse of a man in uniform through the winter-frosted glass and threw open the door with a grin. Expecting to fall into Yakov’s arms, her stomach sank when instead she met the gaze of a stone-faced man carrying Yakov’s personal effects.

“Mrs Vladimir?”

“…Yes?”

 

 

Phenomenal Woman


Happy International Women’s Day!

To celebrate us, the women of the world today (March 8th), I share words of  a great poet, Maya Angelou. I would like to pay tribute to the phenomenal women (pictured below) that raised me, and whose blood flow in my vein.

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From left to right, Mama De-ec, Tinang and Mama (Freda). My aunt, grandma and mum. Guess who is in the bilum…

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Maya Angelou

Creative Writing – “My Last Walk”


My last post on my personal journey through domestic violence brought a lot of pain, anguish and fear. With the graphics being provided in the New York Times film by Carey Wagner, my mind took a long trip to many forgotten places where the monster lived.

I have taken some time to work through things I kept to myself for a long time but in response to the article, many kind words have been spoken by friends, family and even caring strangers both here, personal emails, phones and my Facebook Page. It is a long hard walk to the end of violence against women but we have to continue to talk about it and fight the monster.

I have two very important people in my life; my sons Nathan(18) and Chris(15). As a mother I always worry that whatever actions I take that the boys would be watching me and there would be consequences. I always worry I may hurt them emotionally. This is one of the things we need to teach our boys and young children in PNG if we are serious about starting at ground level.

For my own case, all these years, I did not speak much about my life with the monster. I felt very strongly about many things and my priority was always to protect sons. I knew they would soon learn about me and the culture they are part of. Because they were born into a combination of cultures and parents the responsibility comes back to their father and I to teach them about what is expected of them and how they should treat others.

My past did involve my sons but only just. I recall a confronting incident in 1999 that involved my children and my past. I had fled from the monster in 1988. I changed my life, settled several years later in a very happy relationship and had my sons.

Our family went to a friend’s place one day. My sons were barely 3 and six-months-old. We were invited to the friend’s place for Sunday brunch. When we arrived, the boys my partner and I, in front of my friend’s house was the man who had beat me for four years. He was invited! It was absurd. However, when you look at the big picture, which took me a long time to see was that – everything was ok. Even friends accepted that what this man did was ok.

I was shocked but having my baby (Chris) in my arms, I pretended to ignore the beast and proceeded forward. What I did not expect was he came forward, passing me, to pick up a ball my three-year-old had dropped. Stunned, I watched him hand the ball back to my son. Then the man did something that made me want to kill him. He gently touched my son’s head. I nearly fainted.

We left the party and returned home because my partner and the father of my sons could see that clearly, I became very ill. We never spoke about this incident but I knew that I could never let that person come near my children.

Like all families, life continues and we grow as people and as a family, we take on life’s challenges together. I believe as a parent, I must always do my best and show what is in my heart.  Show love. This love that I teach and show is the greatest conqueror of all hardships and it teaches my sons to love others and treat them as they would want to be treated. That was what my late grandmother, Geyam Kauc always said. I tell my sons to always treat people with love and respect. And when they are older, especially in relationships, treat women with the same love and respect and the women will appreciate and reciprocate.

Thank you to all those people that commented on the “PNG Women: When can we be safe in our own country” post and I hope that what I wrote made a small contribution to help in creating more awareness and also give hope to victims of violence.

As promised, I am sharing a story I wrote based on a true story of another woman who was a victim at the hands of the monster. This story hopefully one day will be published in a book of short stories. I thank my teacher Isabel D’ Avila Winter for editing and formatting this story. If you have any comments about the story, please let me know. Pictured below is a picture of women I worked with in Eniyawa Village, Suki, PNG where I was told this story. I met several very talented women weavers, leaders and also victims of domestic violence relationships. It was in the evenings after our weaving workshop that we would sit and discuss some of our own personal triumphs and how we got away from the “the monster”.

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My Last Walk

By Joycelin Leahy

I could feel his eyes burning into my back as I struggled uphill and over the grass stubs. The air was tight around me. It is almost four in the morning and chilly.

“Walk faster!”

This time I felt Bomoga’s heavy breathing, close and menacing. I longed for the day’s first warmth, for the softness of my three-month-old baby Boni and for the giggles of his older siblings. I felt extremely fatigued and wished I could stop walking. A sudden breeze brushed over the tall grass making a shoos sound. I shivered.

This was how Bomoga and I walked to the garden, except I walked behind him with a child on my shoulder, one in the bilum on my back, whilst pulling my eldest by the hand. Their father walked proudly in front with his spear, his small bag strung across his chest. This time I was in front, wearing my favourite red meri blouse. In haste, I had worn it inside-out. It hung loosely on me.

As I reached the top of Kasu Hill, I struggled for air.

“Hurry Up!”

I could feel myself sweat vigorously as my heart pumped wildly.

Kasu was the only hill in Domogu Village in the wallaby plains of Western Province in Papua New Guinea. The rest of the area was flat grassland hunters burnt often to entrap wild game.

As commanded, I marched a further three kilometers along the ridge and then descended gradually. I stopped feeling the mud and my sore right foot. Near Kasu Hill, NGO environmentalists were studying the tailings allegedly from Ok Tedi Mining. Along the river bank, hundreds of fish and plants had died. Usually there would be people here, but it’s too early – there is no-one.

I felt my milk starting to drip down my blouse. I hadn’t worn a bra, so my breasts were full and uncomfortable. My heart beat faster as I steered my thoughts from my baby. The sun rose and faint shadows began to form while warm air caressed my face. I was sure now: we had crossed the open country and left Domogu Village. Bomoga’s ancestors, nomads like mine, had decided to settle in this land because of its fertility.

We’re up high and it is clearer. My eyes scanned over the mountains where mining giant Ok Tedi explored. To the south, there was an airstrip; Airlines PNG flew in weekly. From the top, the village looked like an exquisite jewel, a deep jade opal, festooned with glassy lakes of various sizes.

“Move!” his voice cut through the silence.

I stumbled forward.

Soon, we entered a dark forest, the only obscure part of the land. Strangely, the birds were silent. I had never been here, but I knew sorcerers came here often for bush medicine. I looked for the outside light through the tree openings. I saw only the lingering fog, separating me further from my children.

“Keep walking,” he hissed behind me.

From the moment he’d woken me this morning, I had not looked once in Bomoga’s eyes. It was still dark and I had felt his sweaty hands touch my arm. His physical stench was almost invasive. I thought he wanted sex but he shook me roughly and ordered me up and out of the house. His shadow had loomed over me as I carefully took Boni off my breast and put my meri blouse on quickly. My baby stirred and nestled into his flannelette blanket, eyes still shut. Thank God, I thought, he didn’t wake up and cry for more milk. I hung on to the last touch of his tender little fingers. Eka and Maria were asleep. I heard Bomoga pick up something and then close the door behind us. The mood between us was chilling. He was quiet and cagey, unlike his usual loud and showy ways.

If we were not having sex, which was rough and unpleasant, we had arguments which would end with a sudden punch in my eye or stomach, sometimes causing me to blackout. I knew if I answered back or cried out, the beating would be worse.

He repeatedly told me no-one would help me because I was his wife. Not even his mother, sisters, or other villagers. I always felt like his prey, moving under his watchful eyes while I went about my daily chores.

My thoughts reached out to my children, then my mother. Our years of marriage had worked this way: while Bomoga ruled, I kept my mouth shut. My bride price had been paid and when my family left after the wedding ceremony, I knew I would never see my mother again. I ran after her. We cried and hugged for a long and last time.

The sobbing began from inside now, my eyes warmed and salted with tears.

I remembered a slight improvement in Bomoga at the birth of our first son. I’d made him a proud Melanesian man by having a first male child. Eka was my child of hope. I held this hope close to my chest along with the bible. Children can change a marriage, the village pastor had said. Sadly, Bomoga’s cousin came back from the city one day with SP beer and some other alcohol. The two had many days of stories.  I saw a change aroused in Bomoga, followed by his old ways. When I had two more children and threatened that I would leave, I saw something new in his eyes. He started beating me.

Today his manners are different again. He is like a time-bomb, ready to go off at anytime. As I walked on, I remembered how no-one had seen us leave the house. Not even Tau, the old Papuan. I wish he had already opened his trade store. He was a kind man. If he or someone else saw us leave then, one day, they could tell my children. I did not leave willingly. It was not my choice to leave them behind.

As we descended through the gloomy thick undergrowth into a flatter area, I glanced across a small opening. I could finally see sunlight touching the mid canopy. It was a pretty sprinkle of luminosity touching various leaves and the moss. I caught a glimpse of a beautiful Bird Wing butterfly on a fern, just waking up. I felt a flash of hope.

We left the dense of the forest and approached a Y junction. I could hear rapids.

“Turn down towards the River,” Bomoga commanded.

I turned towards the sound of the rapids. My mind focused on the returning pain in my foot. In each step, I felt the sharpness of the rocks greeting me as I descended over each one. The rapids became louder. Before me was the belly of a fast flowing river and it was full from the rain last night. Is he going to drown me? Perhaps this was my last walk, I wondered.

I imagined villagers rushing to screaming children. My body laid there as the women rushed to the children. My laplap had been swept away and only my treasured meri blouse, still inside out, was clinging to my slim frame. I was dragged ashore with a paddle shafted under the hem of my blouse. Here, I was left on the pale silky banks of Suki River while everyone gathered to look. Then a woman ran up and started yelling and then, in a cry of recognition, she bellowed my name: “Sulita!, Sulita! It’s Suli!.” Everyone would turn and ask; “Who is Sulita?” They had not recognised me half dressed and impaled by a black palm spear. By then my corpse had been soaked pale and bloodless by the hours in the river.

“Stop!” he yelled over the rapids.

I stumbled and halted, snapping into reality.

On the river’s edge lies soft silky mud. The ground is pale and covered with smooth boulders of all kinds. In places there were no stones and the ground looked easy to dig. I kept my face down and turned away. My staggering feet were covered in mud and grass. I needed to relieve myself. Under my extreme state of duress, blood rushed to my head, causing a war of pins and needles.

“Turn around and face me. Look at me.”

Slowly, I raised my head, looking up into the point of his most prized black palm spear. In the background everything there was to see and hear faded.

Bomoga had speared the biggest pig, the fastest wallaby and driven the largest cull of deer. Many feared him because of his mastery with the weapon itself. My eyes shifted from the spear and held my husband’s eyes. Even after ten long years we stared at each other as if we were strangers. I finally felt at peace.

Bomoga’s eyes were wild, bulging and red. His nose flared and his eyebrows twitched in the anticipation of violence. He raised and pointed with the spear.

“Where would you like to be buried?” he asked.

Introduction – About Tribalmystic Blog


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!).

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Kaz (rainbow lorikeet) breaking the ice on their first day they became friends. It was Christmas day 2013. Nisha (scale breasted Lorikeet) was not impressed but they got on better as the days progressed. Kaz has been with us four months and Nisha,  just under a month. They both fell out of their nests and could not fly.

Tribal Mystic tribalmystic