Oro to this Place of War and Peace

I wrote this poem sitting in my house in the middle of Gorari Village thinking about this beautiful land that is steeped in the history of the Second World War in the Pacific as well as its own traditional histories. The title of the poem is ‘Oro to this Place of War and Peace’. This is a place that knew war and continues to know it through its materiality and lingering effects even during this time of peace. One can read and analyse the dichotomy of war and peace and of life and death in the lives, culture and landscape of this place. Some of the contradictions are clear from the stanzas of the poem, for instance the play on the role of Papuans and New Guineans who worked as medical orderlies and carriers (carer’s) versus those who fought as soldiers. The majestic mountains of the ranges now named after one called Owen Stanley conceal some of these callous contradictions. The resplendent rugged terrain does not easily reveal the stories of those ragged bloody hero’s, foreign and locals alike, who traipsed across this landscape eighty years ago.

image by NomadicPixel
The Facial Tattoos of Oro Province in Papua New Guinea | Nomadicpixel

By Gregory Bablis

Oro da
Oro da
Oro da Biage
Oro da Kaiva
Welcome to this place
Welcome to this place
Welcome to this place of the Biage
Welcome to this place of the Kaiva
Oro means welcome
Da means place
Oro, Oro, Oro
Coming from a smiling face

Greetings for strangers and kin
And for you and me
This is no awful din
But jovial camaraderie

From Eora, Alola, Isurava, Kokoda
To Hoi, Sengi, Oivi and Gorari
Kovelo to Kamando
Sisireta to Popondetta
Oro, Oro, Oro

The place of flying monarchs
And wingless angels
The bird-sized butterfly
And ghosts who walked

Our very own Los Angeles
Home of michaelangelo’s and Raphael
Messengers and labourers
Fuzzy Wuzzies on bush tracks
Carer’s and soldiers
Papuans and New Guineans
All shades of black

Bloody be Buna
Gona got gone
Shattered seashores Sanananda saw
Enough had everyone at Endaiadere

Welcome to this place
Of grass-skirts and tapa
A place of people
From Binandere to Kaiva
Of warriors and chiefs
Sorcerers and martyrs
Men and women
From Hunjara and Kaina

A place of love
A place of peace
A place of war
A place of life
A place of death
Ended lives
Beginning of life,
After life.

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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