Examination time
My mother and her mother’s advice

How the adulterous woman averted a tribal fight


An entry in the 2015 Rivers Award
for Writing on Peace & Harmony

MARY, from Gunage village in the Sinesine area, was 20 when she married her husband Kaupa and went to live with him at Mormaule village in the Dom area of Simbu Province.

Mary and Kaupa loved each other and lived harmoniously with their two kids. They lived a subsistence livelihood, earning a little cash from the sale of surplus garden food to buy soap, cooking oil and salt.

Their tribe was well known for its warfare against neighbouring people and, after some particularly ferocious fighting, Maary and Kaupa lost their home and food gardens.

Thereupon, they migrated to Kia as refugees and took refuge with Kaupa’s uncle. Some years later, when the fighting was over, they returned to Mormaule village and lived almost as vagrants on their home soil.

Rather than cultivating land for gardening, Kaupa told his wife to take care of the two kids and moved to Kundiawa where he was employed as a pump boy at the Mobil service station.

Kaupa used his wages to support the family at home. He built a semi-permanent home, a small piggery and a canteen on the road through the destroyed village.

Mary took advantage of the money generated from the piggery and canteen to gamble and eventually befriended a man from a rival tribe. He was married with three kids.

Some elderly men from the village became suspicious and decided to investigate her activities.

On a pay day Friday, Mary returned from Kundiawa after collecting her share of Kaupa’s wage.  She returned home with K150 on an open back ute and, instead, of getting off at Mormaule village, she went to her second husband’s village some kilometres away.

One of her husband’s cousins saw her divert her course towards the home of her adulterous second husband. When the couple entered the house, her husband’s cousin confronted them.

They were caught red-handed and had no words to explain the situation, admitting that they had committed adultery on several occasions.

“We will get the matter before the court to resolve the issue, so get your compensation ready,” said the cousin.

The cousin returned to Mormaule and reported the matter to the immediately family. The news caused irritation and anger. The family members plotted to warfare against the rival tribe.

The family members then called upon Kaupa in Kundiawa to attend to the court case. While waiting for him to arrive, Mary took her two kids and went with her aunties to the Wahgi River for a morning bath.

Mary removed her clothes and left them on the river bank and jumped into the river in her swimming costume. Suddenly Mary’s hands waved in the air. Her kids saw her and were dismayed and screamed for help.

But Mary floated with the current all the way to Salt Nomane. At Crocodile Island she made her way to the river bank and ran to Gunage village for the night.

Her kids and aunties returned home and reported that she had been swept away by the Wahgi River. The villagers searched for two weeks, couldn’t locate her body and assumed she was dead.

At her parents’ house in Gunage, Mary reported the tale of her adulterous life and asked them not to tell anyone where she was.

Her husband’s relatives at Mormaule village mourned her death and hosted a big haus krai. They had a big party to commemorate her death and to foster unity among family members. They decided not to pursue the court case against her adulterous husband.

“Mary’s suicidal act would compensate for her adulterous deeds,” said Kaupa.” Only if she was around would we pursue the case. But she is gone, so we will leave things as they are.”

Mary and Kaupa’s relatives resolved not to demand compensation but to forgive one another.

After five months, when everyone was not thinking of Mary’s deeds and her death, she left her parents’ home in the night and walked all the way to Mormaule village. Kaupa was alone and about to fall asleep.

Mary whistled to alert Kaupa not to treat her as a ghost but as a real being.

Kaupa was surprised and told her, “If it is really you then go straight to the bedroom and hide so no one shall see you until such a time.”

“Yeh,” said Mary. “I am sorry to deceive you and the family because of my evil deeds.”

Kaupa hugged Mary, saying, “I forgive you. Set your heart at peace and publicly apologise to the entire tribe to seek their leniency.”

“I honour your apology and will publicly shed tears as a mother and a Melanesian woman to earn people’s forgiveness,” Mary assured her husband.

After a week, Mary slaughtered two pigs and hosted a big banquet and gathered Kaupa’s relatives and asked for public forgiveness.

On behalf of the community, a village chief accepted her apology and responded, “We forgive your evil deeds for you are genuine enough to return after five months and so bear no more disgrace.

“Your boldness indicates that you are a unique mother ready to be forgiven and forget.”

Mary and Kaupa reunited and lived harmoniously as before and served the community at large. They became the model of being forgiving parents in Mormaule village. 


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