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September 20, 2013

Colonial days in Papua New Guinea

SIR MICHAEL SOMARE, FIRST CHIEF MINISTER OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA, DECEMBER 1973.

 

THE OTHER DAY I came across a blog entitled Colonial Days in Papua New Guinea: Picturing the Past which is a treasure trove of wonderful photographs by Veronica Peek.

Unfortunately I can’t reproduce even a single one of them here because Veronica has, as is her right, copyrighted them for now and posterity, but they can be viewed on her blog here.

One series of pictures was taken in 1973 in Sir Michael Somare’s home village of Karau, in the Murik Lakes District of East Sepik Province. The occasion was Somare’s initiation as Sana [peacekeeper] of his own people and his initiation as Onkau [headman] of the family of Lady Veronica Somare.

“Almost 40 years have passed,” writes Veronica Peek, “and there would be people portrayed in the photos who have since gone to join their ancestors. Those of us who remain behind have grown old as each of us must. Even the children would now be in late middle age.

“My hope is that it is those children who will now enjoy looking at the old photos of what was an important day in the life of their families and their village.

“I went to Karau as part of a media contingent. The journey took all day, starting with a flight to the regional capital of Wewak, followed by a very long trip on a coastal boat until we reached the entrance to the Murik Lakes, where we transferred across to a motorised canoe for the final leg of our journey.

“By the time we reached Karau, it was already quite late at night and we all bunked down in the guest house that the villagers had prepared for us.

"I recall that the women supplied us with a delicious chicken and coconut hotpot. The village was built on a sandbank, and we were awoken the following morning by the sound of children playing on the beach. The day of the Sana had begun.”

In the same blog, there are also pictorial essays on Sir John Guise, Dame Josephine Abaijah and Biga Lebasi.