Peacemaking – My culture

By Caroline Evari – 12th April 2021, Everyday Battles

On Saturday January 30th, 2021 at around 7:30pm, my family had small peace-making ceremony here in Port Moresby. Leading into the new year of 2021, there were some misunderstanding amongst my older siblings’ daughters that resulted in dispute and disharmony between several family members. As always conflicts are bound to occur among family members and as such in our tradition, ‘kastom wok’ was the only way in resolving disharmony.   

In a village setting, disputes were always settled by the elders. They were full of wisdom and well respected by everyone that each time they spoke, or gave orders, everyone obeyed them. It was also common for someone with a high status in society to initiate disputes because they were seen to be capable in settle them. People often went to their gardens to harvest food produce or checked their backyards for betelnuts, coconuts or livestock to slaughter. These items were then used to settle disputes.

Here in the city, you would have to budget for this activity by sacrificing your wage or salary. You can call this an expensive exercise, and in fact, the amount of money, time and resources spent on doing kastom wok equates the value of damage done. One must feel the pain of sacrificing so much to understand the importance of respecting one another. Hence, people never created disputes unnecessarily unless for a valid reason.

For our family’s kastom wok, my husband and I did what we could. As much as conflicts were bound to happen, it is not healthy for a family to continue living with hatred, so we decided to be the bridge and make everyone reconcile. We made five different hampers each containing a 10kg bag of rice, a twin pack of chicken, a 12pack canned ocean blue tuna, a bunch of banana, greens and drinks. It was a thoroughly guided reconciliation. Every family were given twenty minutes each to air out their frustrations or disappointments to one another, and close of by apologizing for any ill behavior they had done. As the rain poured, we gathered under the shade of a high post house as each of our families gathered and everyone was given an opportunity to speak. While each person spoke, the rest listened quietly and waited for their turn. Everyone come out, spoke out and asked for forgiveness and each made a promise that night to put away all our differences and move forward into the new year with positive vibes. At the end of it all, each family were presented a hamper each as a symbol of reconciliation and unity. It felt so good seeing everyone laugh, shake hands and hug.

Peacemaking or ‘kastom wok’ has always been part of our society and an act passed on from generation to generation. It is a symbol of unity and is the pillar that kept families and clans together. It is the very reason why our societies continue to thrive and live in harmony. It was common for misunderstandings, arguments and fights in our society but at the end, ‘kastom wok’ was always done to make peace. It involved the slaughtering of pigs and chickens, the harvesting of the best produce from the gardens, betel-nuts and coconuts or in some extreme cases, exchange marriages. I grew up embracing it as part of my Oro culture. I recall my mother cooking a pot of food or taking a live chicken with her to say sorry to an aunt or an in-law after having a heated argument with them. ‘Say sorry before the sun sets’, she would say, ‘and never go to bed with an unforgiving heart. Over the years, I have also gotten into the habit of showing gesture to say sorry. Not everything practiced in my culture can be adapted in a contemporary PNG society like the facial and body tattoo but ‘kastom wok’ in showing kindness, asking for forgiving or celebrating is one that I hold dear to me and practice today.

Remember: it takes stupidity and pride to create a problem, but it takes so much courage to stand up, admit your faults and apologize.

Picture source: The man who would not die

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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