An entry in The Crocodile Prize
Cleland Family Award for Heritage Writing
PAPUA New Guinea will soon be celebrating 39 years of independence. We’ve gone from caves to skyscrapers, and we’ve changed in so many ways. Including the way we dress. That’s what I’d like to talk about.
Most of these changes took place simply because of copy-paste.
We copy somebody else’s culture of clothing ourselves and pretend it’s ours. But in fact it is not the real us but a guma.
Guma is Tok Pisin for the hermit crab, which uses the abandoned shells of dead creatures as its own.
They think they look different because of the different sizes and colours of these adopted shells but in fact they’re the same hermit crabs that think, act, behave and look like a guma. And will for as long as they live.
Nowadays, our women especially have gone to the extent of being a guma by wearing male clothes, earrings the size of a dump truck tyre and skirts too tight or transparent or short for public places.
Ladies will argue with me that times are changing and we need to move with them, but I’d argue in a decent manner and not like a guma.
This means a proper skirt and not see-through like a mosquito net. Our women from the New Guinea Islands wear meri blouses and laplaps and still look very pretty. What is the proposition? Does wearing something tightly stretched put you in a high class position or make you prettier?
Guma is an epidemic in our country. I don’t know about you, but I wonder whether we are really moving forward. I think we’re heading backwards to the Stone Age again.
Our grandfathers and grandmothers were strict with guma culture and definitely knew how to dress even in changing from traditional to modern times. I suppose most dressing was a bit guma but done in line with our culture and traditions.
It was still nice and acceptable and is today and in the years to come too.
Our great chief and founding father, Sir Michael Somare, and the other great men of those times still wear the sulu to attend church services or meetings. Not only here but in western countries as well.
To them this is decent and acceptable but the current young male generation will totally disagree. Just like the young women and girls will disagree with their parents buying them laplaps, ladies shorts, proper skirts and blouses.
They want to buy their own clothes and guess what you find when they do? Transparent, very tight, very, very short. This is done because of lack of good parenting and schooling.
The greatest thing is, “Don’t be a guma” Just remember who we are. We are still Papua New Guineans.
It is very embarrassing when I see Europeans come to our country and dressing more decently than us. It raises questions like, “What are this people of this developing nation trying to prove to the developed and more developed nations?”
The gumas appeared recently probably because they wanted to look more like westerners but in fact they do not realise that they are only putting themselves in the western shell.
They are not westerners, they are Papua New Guineans. No matter what you do or how you dress, it will never change you.
My final message is that, as the times do change, guma culture is being heavily adopted and influencing our way of dress. As parents, husbands, wives, caregivers, intending parents and children, we have to sit down, reflect, educate and change our mindset to minimise and control this guma epidemic.
We need to dress right in the right place at the right time and not to be influenced and confuse ourselves with the guma culture.