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Introducing the Hulas of the Papuan coast


HELLO PNG ATTITUDE! My name is Mary Ligo–Fishburn and I come from Hula village in the Rigo sub-district area of the Central Province in Papua. I have now lived in Australia with my family for over fifteen years.

I am proud to hail from a particular race of people called the Hulas. This name is originally derived from our early traditional name of Vula before the coming of the missionaries to the central coast.

The people are mostly Christians, peace-loving, good-natured and of friendly disposition. We are Polynesian in appearance.

Since the early 18th century, our ancestors were converted by Christian explorers-cum-missionaries from the London Missionary Society (LMS) protestant order of England.

The LMS first came to several Hula coastal villages from their South Sea missions based in Samoa, Tonga and Rarotonga.

The early lay-missionaries taught our people the traditional Polynesian skills of basket-making, mat-weaving and carving artefacts from wood and traditional jewellery-making from sea-shells, a unique type of singing (Ute), and certain Polynesian chanting songs.

The LMS church spread similar Christian influence up and down the coastal villages of Papua. After World War II in the 1960s, the last Polynesian missionaries left to return to their South Sea home ending the era of the Polynesian missionaries in Papua with the emergence of locally trained pastors to carry on the church’s work to this day.

Not much is known of the Hulas, or where they originated from when they first came to settle on the south coast of Papua. The Hulas could possibly have inherited their features from some mixed-blood ancestral links to Polynesians, Melanesians and Micronesians.

The Hulas, both men and women, are generally very attractive looking with their long straight or curly hair, light-brown skin and fine facial features.

Many people say they very much resemble similar the Malay seafarers who were some of the early explorers along the Papuan coast.

In future I will share with you a little more about the Hulas, our unique lifestyle, Christian upbringing and friendly culture. I’ll also let you know what I am involved in right now in Australia to help my Hula community back home.

I am very grateful to Keith Jackson and want to thank him for letting me share my story with readers on PNG Attitude. This blog is a great way to improve relations between Australia and PNG. Tanikiu kamuvagi (Hula for thank you very much).

Note: I am also grateful to my former Hohola suburban neighbour and Kila Kila High School friend, Reginald Renagi, in encouraging me to send this short introduction of my people as a feature article for PNG Attitude.


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Geoff Hancock

Mary passed away two years ago John.

John Tongia

To the owner/creator of PNG Attitude, I say congratulations and a job well done on getting this forum going.

It is a great forum for all PNGeans to communicate to look for others they are interested in and share information.

John Tongia

Hi Mary - I do remember you and your husband Bill Fishburn very well and am wondering if you both still reside on the Gold Coast in Queensland.

I am currently working in Port Moresby but I have my home in Logan City, south of Brisbane.

My father's mother, Rona Martin, is a daughter of Pala Kana from Babaka village in the Rigo Sub-District. Pala married a patrol officer back in the day. He originated from Scotland.

Anyhow, I was surfing Google for some Motu words and their true meaning as my mother is from Hanuabada and I stumbled across this page.

I recognised your name hence why I am saying hi and am amazed at some of the commentary from others on this forum. My hi to Bill as well.

Madeleine Ruga

Please advise Trevor Connell that in answer to his search for Oko Ruga, I know her and she is now a retired public servant and resides in Port Moresby.

Trevor Connell

Hello Mary - I visited Hula back in 1970 and met a person there who looked after us well. We met again late in 1974 in Tapini. I'd like to get in touch with her again.

Do you have a contact still in Hula who might have some information. Her name is Oko Ruga.

Thank you for any assistance.

Madeleine Ruga

Thanks Aunt Mary, your piece on Hulas definitely made it possible for Andy Cox to bring his mum, Kila Eli-Cox, back to Hula after more than 50 years.

The reunion with family/friends/relatives was a wonderful time and, though time was limited, we were left with a lot of memorable moments.

Thanks once again for your piece on Hula and thanks to PNG Attitude for the connection.

Vulaa Nauna (Hula = 'Child of Hula').

Andy Cox

My mother is from Hula and hasn't been back home in almost 40 years. I am taking her back next year in June but am having trouble finding any information about how to get to Hula and if there is anywhere to stay for the three of us.

I can't wait to go and see my mother's heritage and she is so excited to come home after so long. I hope someone can help me make this an amazing experience.

We are desperately trying to get in touch with her sister, but have lost contact years ago. Veva Kaipu (nee Eli) was her name...long shot, but have to try everything :)

Thanks for any help anyone can give.

Mathias Kin

A very interesting read, Mary. I can only wish you remain peaceful and beautiful always without the bad of the outside.
My tambu is Api who of course is married to our big brother (from Simbu) and had many beautiful children. A truly kind loving women. We lived in Lae in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Natasha Nesian

Yes indeed we have curly and straight long hair. I originate from Aloma, or Aroma Coast most people may call it.

I am a young individual who is very much interested in knowing our race and our origins and so forth.

I am so proud of my people and search on Google to find any connections with the Polynesians and Micronesians. I have noticed our languages are quite similar with certain words.

I find it amazing.

Lu Read

To Heather Kenyon. I have just seen your entry regarding photos of Babaka Village. My grandmother, her father and grandfather came from there, dates unknown but I would surmise early 1900 or maybe before.

You state you have photos to share. Can these be sent via email or via a Picasa Web album. Her descendants are now looking at the history of the place she was born as we have nothing on her at all.

Hoping you can help.

Loan Amana

I married a girl from Hula and became interested in the language. I found many lingual connections with Polynesia and particularly Fiji.

Get a Fijian/English dictionary, you will be surprised at the connections.

There are also connections with the Indonesian language,as there is with Motu, suggesting a link possibly via Motu. The Indonesian dialects have connections with other languages as far as the Phillipines. Very interesting.

Don't be misled by words introduced by missionaries and other movements and inter-marriage over the centuries. There were many words introduced by the LMS over the years. The Hula language has many Kooki Airan words today, e.g., mereki, piripo, tamake etc.

Heather Kenyon

Hello Mary - I visited the area as a 5 year old in the late 1950s with my parents, John and Shirley Newnham, and a group of teacher trainees from Iduabada. We have some great photos.

We were welcomed by dance from the girls of Babaka Village School, LMS. We had a great feast on the verandah of the pastor's house. I always thought it was Hula.

I have just noticed the name Babaka on the Welcome Board. Can you enlighten me. Is anyone collecting photos for the area. I would be happy to send copies.

Ada Saleh

Hi Mary, my name is Ada Ole Gerea Saleh (nee Arisa) and am the daughter of Eileen Tom of Hula.

I am a direct descendant of Leva Lui...founder of Hula.

I am very interested to find out more about my bloodline and wondered if you had any information that might help me.

Derek Webber

I love the Central people and will one day marry one. I'm Papuan half British and believe we have a beautiful race :)


Thanks for the information on the Hulas. But I'm just asking did we come from somewhere else like Asia or Polynesia?

We are light-brown skinned, our eyes are kind of squinted and we look different from the actual Papuans.

Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin

Mary and Renagi - I am a privileged Highlander who has made regular visits by dingy from Hisiu in the Hiri all the way to the Geagea/On'e On'e, way past Mailu Island in the Abau District for two consecutive years.

Lost in the sea three times and slept in all the villages along this coastline. I was massively impressed with the way you all live and manage the daily chores at the village.

You are all civilized and dignified human beings who respect fellow mankind. You all are peace loving. I wish my kind will see how you live in Hula and its vicinity and replicate it up here.

Make sure you sieve all the foreign elements that will dilute your wonderful way of life. Cheers!

Peter Warwick

Mary - Thank you for your piece on the Hulas. I have had many wonderful days in Hula – a fine group of people.

I have been casually researching the Malay presence in Hanuabada. There is some evidence that Malays stayed at Hanuabada for some 400 years until departing. Hence the straight black hair.

I would be grateful if anyone can point me to migration patterns in the region.

Jane Resture’s pages have some interesting data on Polynesia, but I was particularly interested in the south coast of Papua New Guinea.

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