BY ROSE KRANZ
If a girl starts her first menstruation she is consigned to a small hut with a friend - all symbolic. If she has been a good girl she is released early.
Two pots are placed outside the hut - one filled with water, one not. If she has been a good girl, she will be allowed to drink from the full pot. If not she will be offered the empty pot and will be returned to the hut.
The elders will ask her questions about whether she has been a good girl or not. On successful completion of the interrogation, she will jump out the door of the hut over some sugar cane.
Then, in front of a big fire, the elders will further interrogate her. If her answers are good (for example, 'Yes I helped my aunties in the garden. Yes, I gave water to father when he was thirsty'), she will be offered more water and mumu food.
If not - she goes back into the hut and the process is repeated. It can take several months until she learns the right answers.
After this, the relatives make a big feast, tell stories and accept the girl as a young woman. Then everyone celebrates.
By the way, if after the ceremony a young Simbu girl wears a tight necklace of little shells ('beads nungo'), it is a sign that she is a virgin.
Photo: Rose Kranz