How Lake Ipai Came to Be

24 October 2020

NANCY KARE

Alone Abstract Concept, Dead Tree In The Middle Of Lake In The.. Stock  Photo, Picture And Royalty Free Image. Image 43696216.

New Erima Primary School, NCD

The following is a traditional story that explains how Lake Ipai in Enga Province came into existence. Lake Ipai is located in Laiagam District where I am from. Traditional myths relating to the creation of the lake have been passed down from generation to generation. These stories are believed to be true accounts of how the lake was formed because it explains the features of the lake as seen by people who live there today. I interviewed my grandmother and she told me the story which I will now retell.

There once were two brothers – Ipai and Ape – who lived in the thick jungles. They were hunters and gatherers, traveling from one place to another looking for food and shelter. Both Ipai and Ape had two pigs which they looked after until the pigs grew very large.

One day the brothers ran out of food to eat to sustain their lives as wanderers who moved often to scrounge for food or hunt for game. They decided to kill their pigs and prepare the meat to carry as they walked from place to place. The brothers killed their pigs and began preparing the mumu’s (earth ovens). Mumuing and then drying helped preserve the meat to last longer. And turning two large live pigs into smaller pieces of meat that they could carry also made their wanderings a lot easier and faster. They prepared and packed their meat in their string bags. This took the better part of the day and it was evening by the time they started their journey again. They carried their pig meat, hunting gears, like spears, and started their journey west. The walking was long and tough and along the way they ate morsels of pig meat to maintain their strength. They climbed high mountains and crossed wide valleys, passing through thickly forested swathes of land. The more energy they exerted the more meat they ate to replenish their bodily strength.  

But they were not properly managing their meat rations and after a few days the brothers were left with very little meat. Their bodies grew weaker and their walking pace slowed drastically. Ipai, the elder of the brothers, gave his leftover meat to his younger brother and decided to let him go on and look for more food and temporary shelter. The younger brother left the elder brother standing there holding his spear and walking stick. Ipai stood atop a mountain overlooking the next valley as he watched his younger brother walk down and across the vale.

From that vantage Ipai would look on, anticipating Ape’s return in the next few days. After his brother left, Ipai planted his spear into the ground to support himself as he stood facing the way his brother went. Hours passed and turned into days and days into weeks, alas his younger brother never returned. Over the days Ipai slowly lost his strength and began to shrivel as he lost more and more bodily fluids as dehydration set in. All the bodily fluids that Ipai lost flowed down his feet, forming a large body of water around him. Eventually Ipai died surrounded by a lake of his own bodily fluids. This is how the raun wara (round water), called Lake Ipai, was formed.

This story is believed to be true because it explains why up until today there is still a spear propped up right in the middle of the lake. That spear is thought to be the elder brother, Ipai’s, spear from the myth. Most of the people who live around the area fear to venture to the middle of the lake where the spear is. They believe that the spirit of Ipai watches over the lake and protects it from pollution. So they too must look after the lake and keep it clean.

*Nancy is from Enga Province and is in Grade 7, Maroons.

Published by Ples Singsing

Ples Singsing is envisioned to be a new platform for Papua Niuginian expressions of creativity, ingenuity and originality in art and culture. We deliberately highlight these two very broad themes as they can encompass the diverse subjects, from technology, medicine and architecture to linguistics, music, fishing, gardening et cetera. Papua Niuginian ways of thinking, living, believing, communicating, dying and so on can cover the gamut of academic, journalistic or opinionated writing and we believe that unless we give ourselves a platform to talk about and discuss these things in an open, free and non-exclusively academic space that they may remain the fodder for academics, journalists and other types of writers alone. New social media platforms have given every individual a personal space to share their feelings and ideas openly, sometimes without immediate censure. The Ples Singsing writer’s blog would like to provide another more structured platform for Papua Niuginian expressions in written, visual and audio formats while also providing some regulation of the type and content of materials to be shared publicly.

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