My grandfathers told me
Please, take me to my ‘happy place’

The wisdom of what I was told

Agnes Rita Maineke celebrating her birthday with a meal of chicken & chipsAGNES RITA MAINEKE

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

Land, our most valuable resource,
is becoming scarce
With the population increase,
the boundary markers are scarce
So many have been destroyed
by those who wish to scare and claim.

Boundaries between traditional land titles
have been handed down as part of history
“This is what I was told!”
So say both claimants
in any Melanesian land issue today
One says, “I was told by my grandmother
that our land reaches the river mouth.”

On the other hand her opponent claims,
“My grandfather told me
he planted the mango tree at the border
between the two adjacent pieces of land.”

Of course “What I was told “was the truth
in the past everyone respected it.
Today, however, who will believe what I was told
by someone who has become part of the earth?
We cannot rely on “what I was told”
So many oral histories conflict
and hardly agree.

Oral history is befuddled and confused
as the oracle becomes more senile.

So to avoid, or prevent, conflict,
people who have land adjacent to each other
must write down “what they were told”
and compare notes
to come to a better understanding,
a peaceful agreement, for harmonious cohabitation.

“What I was told” can then become
“What I know” and “what is written”
to prove rightful ownership
of land, river or sacred totem


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