Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Truly a Pride of a Tribe - Simbu cultural attire

The pride of the rocky Mountains of Simbu | Melanesian Way | PNG | Pasafika | 📷 

Image Credit: Niugini Photography

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Harmony Christian School Mini-Cultural Show

Harmony Christian School cultural show, Nature Park, Momase Group. Morobe girls are joined their Sepik friends for this event. #Acting Sepik. Image Credit: Ruben Giusu / 2018.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Papua New Guinea's contribution to World History

By Joseph Ketan.

GREAT nations of the world have made significant progress in technological and economic development. Japan, UK, Germany and the US have certainly something to boast about in the fields of transport and communication technology that has helped make the world better, faster and smaller.

The greatest nations, however, are those that have contributed to human knowledge in the fields of science, technology and culture. The ancient Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Africans and Meso-Americans have left their footprints behind in construction, government, medicine, and food.

Among the greatest of all is a little known country that we know here as Papua New Guinea. Imagining PNG as one of the few greatest countries on earth would be unthinkable to most people, even laughable to some, but wait till you hear the rest of this story.

The academic world has always known about our country’s great contributions to human knowledge and to world history, but some sections of the profession have either deliberately, or inadvertently, downplayed PNG’s gifts to the global community for various reasons.

Until now, the world, at large, does not know that the people of Papua New Guinea have made significant contributions to the world in the fields of seafaring, agricultural technology, food crop domestication, conservation management, good governance, conflict resolution, and social welfare.
• We were the first people in the world to travel across the vast Pacific Ocean using sails and the outrigger canoe technology.
• We were one of only three countries in the world to develop agriculture independently. And we gave the world major economic crops in sugarcane, bananas, and Pacific staples (taro and yams).
• In our kinship and extended family system, we provide the best social welfare system. We do not throw our old folks into retirement centres like white people do.
• We are among the very few who protect the ecosystem, after having recognized that we are part of the environment, rather than being masters over it.
• In the way we distribute economic resources during large-scale ceremonial exchanges, we have consistently demonstrated transparency and accountability in our dealings, thereby demonstrating that we practice good governance while the World Bank only preaches about it.

I could go on and on about it, but it suffices to say that we now have the perfect opportunity provided by the APEC summit to showcase our contributions to human knowledge.

Our Prime Minister will now be able to stand as tall as the President of the US and other global leaders that his country has a remarkable history, not as a tribe of belligerent headhunters or hunters and gatherers, but as settled farmers, peacemakers, conservators, governors, and global trend-setters. It is not a coincident that the world is coming here. They were destined to be here at some stage. We just did not know when. Now that they are here, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill needs to tell them that his country laid the foundation – in agriculture – for the world to thrive on and grow into what it is today. President Donald Trump and other leaders need to know from our leaders that the greatest human transformation from nomadic life, based on hunting and gathering, to permanent settlement, based on farming, was made in Papua New Guinea.

In the words of my countryman, George Bopi, to me, it is very simple: we are not a country of primitive people; rather, we are a country with a rich cultural heritage, with the Kuk World Heritage site as its flagship. We are, essentially, are very civilized country.

We need good man to stand up and speak boldly for PNG. I am thinking of men like the indomitable Thomas Laka, Professor Michael Mel with his eloquent oratory, George Bopi with his passion for excellence, Dr John Muke with his eye to detail, and the unassuming Tiri Kuimbakul. I have met some great people, including Sir Rabbie Namaliu, Sir Mekere Morauta, Dame Meg Taylor, Sam Koim, John Toguata, Ila Geno, Brown Bai, Robert Igara, Anton Goi, John Momis, and numerous others, but it is the forgotten men and women of PNG who really do give a damn about this country. Not the great ones. Not even the greatest.

I send my best wishes and warmest regards to the true Papua New Guineans out there in isolated pockets of the country. Your country is great. That is my simple message!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Two parallel legal regimes in PNG - Are they in conflict? Customary Vs Modern Law


Papua New Guinea was never in a legal vacuum when it was first colonised. All Papua New Guinean societies were well organised and effectively governed by Melanesian customary law. During the time when Melanesian customary law ruled, there were no formal police force, defence force, courts of law and prisons and nonetheless crime rates were very low comparing to the present time. 

The women were half naked but there were less or no rape cases. Similarly, there were less or no corruption, robbery, and violence except in tribal warfare. Please go back to your roots, exhume your history and, I guarantee, you will be utterly amazed at the way our societies were governed by Melanesian customary law.

Our colonial masters ignored the existence of Melanesian customary law and imposed their own law on us instead. Therefore, we now have two conflicting legal regimes – customary law and modern law – running parallel to govern the same issues at law. Therefore, in this article I wish to discuss the conflict that dominates the two regimes of law, which in turn impedes development of this nation.

All regimes of law in any jurisdiction should have one primary goal and that is to serve justice. In a general view, I don’t see this happening in our nation. It appears as if the two regimes of law are constantly at loggerheads with one another. For instance, in a motor vehicle accident, the modern law stipulates that the victim is compensated by way of insurance whereas customary law demands that the owner or driver of the vehicle pays compensation regardless of whether or not he/she is at fault. 

So the poor driver/owner assists the victim to claim insurance on the one hand and on the other hand pays compensation in excess of tens of thousands of Kina. Or in a rape case, the modern law seeks to send the perpetrator to jail whereas customary law seeks to retain the perpetrator in the community and pay compensation or resolve the issue outside of court by imposing other customary sanctions. Or in a matrimony, modern law stipulates that a marriage is valid when you exchange some vows and sign some legally binding documents, which things are immaterial as far as customary law is concerned. 

       On the contrary customary law stipulates that marriage is valid and binding if there is payment of bride price or exchange of valuables of some sort and is witnessed by family and tribe members. Or in terms of ownership of mineral and petroleum resources, the modern law states that the ownership of such resources is vested in the State whereas customary law states that the ownership is vested in the traditional landowners. This is the reason why our friends up in Tari think they own the gas in the land, and so they can shut down the LNG project anytime they wish unless their demands are met. These are but a few examples. 

Given this kind of legal backdrop, I can only liken our two conflicting legal systems to a story I heard while growing up. That is, two blind men planned to paddle a canoe to an island. Both of them got into the canoe with a paddle each. They thought they were facing in the same direction but instead they were facing opposite directions. One of them started paddling the canoe into the sea towards the island. After a while his hands grew tired. Therefore, he asked his friend to help him paddle so that he could rest. His blind friend, who was facing in the opposite direction, paddled the canoe back towards the shore. This routine went on non-stop for two solid days (both day and night) until they were discovered and rescued by a lone fishermen. 

The two conflicting legal regimes are those two blind men in the above story. The boat is PNG and its people. The island is our National Goals and Directive Principles (NGDP) as enshrined in our Constitution. The lone rescuer is the underlying law – a law developed by PNG courts using customary law and English common law. One legal system is trying to lead us towards the accomplishment of our NGDP whereas the other the legal system is undoing the good faith attempts made by the former system. 

        Therefore, I conclude that PNG’s legal foundation is in shambles and as such needs complete revamp and overhaul as soon as possible. Unless and until we get our legal foundation right, the advancement of this country to first or middle-income status will be procrastinated by half a century or more. On this note, I recommend to this nation that a complete review must be done to the current legal system (which is mostly based on introduced English common law) with the aim to unify the two conflicting legal systems into one comprehensive system, which is consistent with the prevailing circumstances of this country. 

Thanks and God bless PNG!
  • The author is a lawyer, prolific author & Assistant Registrar of the National Court. The views expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent any individual or organisation. For comments email:

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Pacific islanders may carry the DNA of an unknown human species: Genetic study reveals ancient Melanesians interbred with a mysterious hominid


Islanders in the Pacific Ocean may be may be carrying traces of a long lost human species locked up in their DNA. Today, modern humans inherit a small chunk of our genes from Neanderthals, with evidence that some of us carry the genetic remnants of a lesser known sister group, called the Denisovans. But genetic analysis of people living in modern Melanesia suggests they carry traces of a third, as yet unidentified prehistoric relative distinct from the others.

The island groups of Melanesia – which includes Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the Solomon Islands and others – are geographically cut off by the Pacific Ocean, with their DNA providing a unique window into how human ancestors spread across the region. The latest research, presented at a meeting of the American Society for Human Genetics in Vancouver, bolsters previous findings that there may be another strand to the story of modern humans, with multiple groups of prehistoric human interbreeding.

Genetic analysis of Europeans, Asians and others with non-African descent hints that ancient humans interbred with Neanderthals. Some groups inherited as much as four per cent of their DNA from these extinct human cousins. A single finger bone and a few teeth found in a cave in Russia revealed another branch of the family tree, the Denisovans, also left their genetic calling card in modern humans, accounting for as much as four percent of people's DNA in Melanesia.
Native people from Papua New Guinea in Melanesia are believed to owe between two and four per cent of their DNA to Denisovans and carry less Neanderthal DNA than other Asians. But genetic data reveal their ancestors may have bred with a third species of ancient human

Now, the latest number crunching has revealed another genetic twist in the tale of modern humans. Ryan Bohlender, a geneticist at the University of Texas, and colleagues looked at the rate of genetic mixing which would account for what;s seen in modern Melanesians and found that something didn't add up. As expected, their analysis found the genetic calling cards of Denisovans and Neanderthals, but it also revealed a high proportion of other extinct ancestry unaccounted for. To explain this mystery DNA, the team believe that ancient Melanesians must have bred with a third group of hominids. Presenting their findings in Vancouver, the team explained: 'We suggest that a third archaic population related more closely to Neanderthal and Denisova than to modern humans introgressed into the San genomes studied here'. 

By working out the amount of DNA shared by Neanderthals and Denisovans, they calculated that this third extinct human species likely branched off from their common ancestor 440,000 years ago. 'Overall, our findings confirm the human family tree is more complicated than we think it is,' said Dr Bohlender. He exlained: 'Other archaic populations are likely to have existed, like the Denisovans, who we didn't know about except through genetics.' Previous studies have shown that ancient Melanesians’ trysts with Denisovans may have helped them to adapt to new environments and spread across the Pacific and into Australia. Among the Denisovan genes are those which boost resilience to viruses and provide metabolic benefits, including increasing blood glucose levels and breaking down fats. Tracing the genetic lineage has revealed that modern humans interbred with Neanderthals a number of times and Denisovans at least once, before these two human cousins died out.

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Black and Blond – The Origin of Blonde Afros in Melanesia


About a quarter of the Melanesian population in the Solomon Islands archipelago has an extremely unusual trait -- dark skin with blond hair. The archipelago, located east of Papa New Guinea in Oceania, consists of a thousand islands inhabited by over half a million Melanesian people. They have the darkest skin in the world outside of Africa, but strangely, about one-fourth of the inhabitants sport blond afros.

This rare Melanesian characteristic has baffled scientists and genetic experts for years. Up until now, they have attributed the trait to inheritance -- from the Europeans, especially the British, German and Australians, who have been associated with the island for hundreds of years. Several of the islands were under German jurisdiction in the 19th century. In 1893, the UK took southern Solomon Islands under their wing, declaring the region a protectorate. The rest of the islands were added to the protectorate at a later stage. And in the early 20th century, Australian and British companies set up coconut plantations on many of the islands.

Blondie's from Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands 
So it isn't entirely unbelievable that the dark-skinned Melanesians got their blond hair from the growing influx of 'outsiders'. The locals, however, prefer not to go by that theory. They have been insisting for years that their blond hair is a result of a diet rich in fish and constant exposure to the sun. As it turns out, both theories are quite far from the truth. According to a recent investigation, random mutation might actually be the answer to the mystery of the Melanesian blonds.

Sean Myles, the author of the study and geneticist at Nova Scotia Agricultural College, pointed out that there is almost no variation in the shades of blond hair. This suggests that the hair color is governed by genes. "It looked pretty obvious to me that it was a real binary trait," he said. "You either had blond hair or you didn't." To locate this underlying blueprint in the Melanesian genetic pool, Myles and his colleagues collected saliva and hair samples from over 1,200 Solomon Islanders. From these samples, they compared the genetic makeup of 42 dark-haired and 43 blond islanders.

What the scientists discovered was pretty phenomenal -- the two groups possessed very different versions of a crucial gene, TYRP1, which coded for a protein involved in pigmentation. Just switching one letter of the genetic code (a 'T' instead of a 'C'), marked the difference between dark hair and blond hair. Only one amino acid in the protein is different (arginine replaced by cysteine). So 25 percent of the Solomon islanders carry two copies of the mutant recessive gene. That means the blonds could have inherited their hair color from both parents. "It's a great example of convergent evolution, where the same outcome is brought about by completely different means," said Myles.

Jonathan Friedlaender, an anthropologist at Philadelphia's Temple University, explained that the mutation probably arose by chance in one individual. It appears to have gained in frequency because the original population of the island was pretty small. Myles added: "If you can find a gene for blond hair that exists in Melanesia and nowhere else, then there's no reason why those sorts of genes don't exist all over the world in underrepresented populations, and affect not only hair pigmentation, but also disease-related traits."

The study also traced the origins of the Melanesian people in an effort to understand the mutant gene. They discovered that while all humans outside of Africa have genes passed down from the Neanderthals, Melanesians are the only known humans with a different prehistoric ancestry. They are believed to have evolved from an interbreeding of the Denisova hominin, Neanderthal man's distant cousin. So the islanders have slightly different genes, which gives them their unique blond hair.

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Friday, 24 February 2017

Datagaliwabe, the great God-progenitor of the Hela nation


Much is talked about Datagaliwabe throughout Hela, nearby provinces and even the entirety of Papua New Guinea. Let me take you to Datagaliwabe. The Huli have a mixture of myths and legends that explain the origins of the gods, clan founders, the creation of all living things and other vital components of Huli life. The Huli believe that in the beginning, there was land and the deities. The deities, such as sun and moon, the Ni and Hana, live in the sky.
Hela huli wigmen
The Huli High God, Datagaliwabe, was the original Supreme Spirit to come from the sky who created the land and other deities. Datagaliwabe was replaced by Honabi wali, the demiurge from whom all life flowed. Her children, Ni and Hana, are the focus of many Huli fertility rites. The first goddess to inhabit the land was Honabe wali. She was seduced by Timbu, the male deity, and gave birth to five gods, Korimogo, Heyolabe, Piandela, Ni and Hela, and one goddess, Hana.
Culture group from Hela Obene
Many Huli regard all these deities as very powerful beings, but deity Heyolabe as the most dangerously evil of them all. After a time, she gave birth to eight other deities, the first bird, possum and pig, hills, trees, bows and arrows, and fire and water. She is the grandmother goddess of the Huli people and surrounding cultures, the Obene, Duna, Duguba and Hewa peoples. Otherwise, they all speak different languages, have their own spirits and their own styles of worship.
Hela Hewa tribes men performing a warrior dance using the bows & arrows 
The deity Hela married an unknown woman who bore him four sons, Obene, Huli, Duna and Duguba. They had a fight which resulted in Obene fleeing to live in the Magarima area, Duna to Lake Kopiago and Duguba to Mount Bosavi, while Huli remained in the Tagari river basin. They were the first human beings and each founded the cultural group that is known to the Huli by those same names.
The Huli calm these deities and seek their assistance through oblation of pigs, red paints, pig fat, cowrie and kina shells, crops and special plant leaves. Some deities like Ni and Korimogo consume the blood and aroma of prepared pigs while the other deities delight in pig fat offerings which are rubbed on sacred stones. Datagaliwabe and Heyalobe cannot be propitiated by any ritual means, although the former is placated by proper moral conduct.
Duguba tribes from Mount Bosavi
The deity Heyalobe was regarded as dama, the Satan. He control the forces of nature and would deceive the Huli people to do evil things. If Huli people did not follow Heyalobe’s instructions, he would attack them directly causing sickness, accident or death or indirectly through witches, corpses, stones, sticks or other ritual objects that are imbued with their presence. If they pleased Heyalobe, he would help them in their endeavors. To avoid attack, the Huli people would placate and win the favour of Heyalobe by tricking him to protect themselves.
Long ago, in order to confuse the deities, Huli men would traverse deep forests and climb mountain peaks speaking a derivative of the Huli language called Tayanda Bi. They also tricked the Heyalobe by constructing symbolic gates to block paths as they walked through the forest. The Datagaliwabe is a unique supreme being, who, unlike Ni and Hana, is not referred to as dama but only by name. He is someone who the Huli people never play around with. They feel his presence more powerfully than other deities.
Gigira Laitebo in Hides, Hela Province
He is a giant High God, who looks down from the sky to punish lying, stealing, adultery, incest, murder of related kin and disregard of ritual taboos. Huli say if you do something evil Datagaliwabe will be watching you. Datagaliwabe was known to the Huli as a bringer of punishment upon those who infringed kinship laws. The only way to please him is proper moral behavior. He would never be placated by pigs as sacrifices and doesn’t accept prayers, dances or other rituals.
The Datagaliwabe looks favorably upon those who obey kinship rules and helps them in their daily affairs. He speaks directly to whoever pleases him in the form of dreams, visions, prophecies and special insights. He also speaks to Huli needs in term of the good life: salvation and power for living. Only the righteous and holy people are taken to dahulianda, the heaven. The Pari clan in South Koroba (a home to the descendant of the sun god, the Ni), regard the place as dahulianda dogo, the bridge to heaven. The Datagaliwabe uses that place for his holy people to cross to heaven.
In the legend of Ira Hari, there is a sacred tree through which all of the earth’s waters pass into the heavens only to fall again as rain. Men tried to build a bridge to heaven on this tree using rope and timber but were unsuccessful. Their language was confused as they worked on the bridge resulting in the disruption of their plans to reach the house of the deities and this was the creation of various other languages.
The Datagaliwabe showed the Huli people dreams and visions of aircraft, truck and also the return of Tahonane, the Hulis’ long lost white brother. The first Huli man Tagonimabe has two sons, Tahonane born white and Tamindini born black. Tahonane was nursed by a great god, grew quickly and left the Huli area never to die. Tamindini nursed at his mother’s breast, and became the father of all the Huli people through his son, Tiliali. The first white men the Huli people encountered were Jack Hides and Peter O’Malley. They looked queerly at the two explorers and whispered excitedly among themselves about their long lost white brother who had returned.
One of the prophecies that has come to pass is Gigira Laitebo legend called Kwai Topo. In this legend, the wise men of Hela spoke many generations ago that their land possessed the Gigira Laitebo or everlasting fire and that one day this would so shine that the faraway lands would be attracted by it and they would come to their doorstep. Today the people of Hela are seeing the men with the orange legs from faraway lands trying to take the fire from them.
River in the rain forest of Mount Bosavi. It is a place that is well known for unknown species
The Datagaliwabe transformed himself into the sun god, the Ni, resulting in a combination of the supreme-being with the sun god to form one supreme-being, the Ni. Ni is a creator god who makes the fertility of the earth and increases the abundance of life for his children, Ni honowini. One of the Ni honowini who makes the fertility of the earth is the famous huli legend of Baya Baya. He was regarded as Jesus who stayed among the Huli people. Prophecy states that the descendant from Ni honowini would one day will come and light up the caves and tunnels of Hela Province. The Huli ancestors said that when that day came, it would be the sign of the last days.
Many Huli believe that Bible stories are paralleled in Huli legend, to the extent that some became convinced that their ancestors had somehow received the biblical message before even the missionaries came, which resulted in many questions about Church history. Datagaliwabe is still equated with God or Yahweh by many Huli Christians today.
Huli wigmen at Ambua fall