Oro to this Place of War and Peace

Words by Gregory Bablis and Art by David Kepa

This poem was originally published on 28 June 2022. It is republished here again with an artwork from a seasoned local artist from the Kokoda LLG.

Oro da

Oro da

Oro da Biage

Oro da Kaiva

Welcome to this place

Welcome to this place

Welcome to the place of the Biage

Welcome to the 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 michelangelo’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.

I wrote the above 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 (WWII) 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.

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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