In recognition of past leaders of the forgotten eras who safe guarded and protected their people during times of conflict and war, and worked to bring about peace and harmony in their societies
THE Arapesh people inhabit the west coast region of East Sepik, up into and over the Torricelli hinterlands.
There are three main groups based on dialectal differences: the coastal Arapesh, the mountain Arapesh and the plain (kunai) Arapesh.
In the past, the traditional Arapesh, like other societies in Papua New Guinea, solved their conflicts and disputes through the diplomacy of bikman intervention and mediation.
When a conflict arose, the village tribal chief or bikman known as the takuien of the disputing groups, would come together in the man house, smeiguh, to discuss a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
The takuien occupied the uppermost echelon of the political and social strata of the Arapesh societies. These leaders had high standards. They would not instigate conflict or embroil themselves in conflict of any sort.
As the leader, the takuien was responsible for making decisions that affected the whole group and was also responsible in maintaining peace and social order within the group.
The peace discussion would weigh out the conflict and reach resolution on how many pigs and ring shell money, kobrip, would be exchanged between disputing groups. The time for the peace ceremony will also be agreed upon.
During the peace ceremony, the leaders of the disputing groups were given time to talk. They did not talk randomly but in a structured manner; when one speaker talked, the others would listen.
The takuien mediated during the peace ceremony. He stood in the centre of the meeting place, holding a spear made from the bush limbum palm tree, wabok. This spear was a symbol of the status of the bearer.
During big events like peace ceremonies, custom talk or village politics, a speaker had the authority to talk to the people when he was holding this special spear, smugh.
The spear is decorated with cassowary feathers tied at its top, middle and bottom.
Speakers had turns holding the spear and talking. The spear symbolised the authority bestowed upon the speaker to talk. After the negotiating, the outcome was respected by the people gathered.
During mediation, a resolution was reached by the disputing groups. The settlement included the agreed number of pigs to be exchanged and the number of ring shell money to be paid with other gifts also deemed relevant.
During a peace ceremony to end fighting, the takuien would call upon the leaders of the warring groups to come forward and exchange gifts. They would also plant a palpal tree together as sign that there would be no more fighting.
These leaders were central in maintaining the Arapesh societies in the past up until the first contact with outsiders and the advent of colonisation.
Great Arapesh leaders of recorded history include the likes of war hero and politician Sir Pita Simogun and philosopher and statesman Bernard Narokobi.
Acknowledgements for this information: My father Joseph Sigimet with added information regarding vernacular words from Ignas Nabasai and Pita Hajatua Simogun (son of late Sir Pita Simogun)