An entry in the 2016 Crocodile Prize
IN EARLY Huli history, there emerged an important young man named Baya Baya. He was the son of the great high god of Hela, Datagaliwabe, who transformed himself into the sun god Ni, came down to the earth and stayed among the Huli people.
Baya Baya was conceived by the virgin Tiame. He was a perfect young man who went around doing good and persuading people to stop fighting, committing adultery and doing evil things.
He was around 14 or 15 years old when he came with Tiame past Duna to Koroba and then down to Lai Terebo places in Duguba. Lai Terebo is a site for performing the ancient dindi ponegone, the ground knot rites.
From there Tiame and Baya Baya came into the Huli area where they stopped and slept at Gumu.
Then they crossed the Tagali River and went to Lumu Lumu, Wabia and all around the Huli area telling people not to do evil things.
At last they came to Bebenete, the special ground called Abureteanda, the most important Lai Terebo place situated beside where Dauli Teacher’s College is now.
Here men were killing pigs for dindi pongone, the ground knot sacrifice, so they decided Baya Baya was going to hold the pigs and would let his blood flow to bless Hela land and stop people doing wrong things.
The man in charge of the pig killing said, “When you hit the pig, instead of cutting it, just miss and cut Baya Baya’s hand between thumb and forefinger.”
But they hated Baya Baya so they hit him and knocked him to the ground. Then they butchered his body and chopped it into little pieces and mixed his blood with the pig’s blood. The women washed out his intestines like that of a pig.
The men who murdered Baya Baya were mostly from the hameigini (clans) Padagabua, Abua Amuira, Hogo Yuwi, Koroba Goli, Pailero, Uguma Labe, Dugu Kewai, Hubiyabe, Homa, Ambua, in and around Dauli village and other Huli men, people from Obena, Duna and Duguba were there that day.
Pieces of Baya Baya’s dismembered body were buried in the territories of all the guilty clans to stop people from doing wrong. Today some of his remains are at one of the secret places inside Mount Lagabe.
A certain stream flowing from Abureteanda sometimes appears red due to the underlying clay and the Huli say it is the fluid from Baya Baya’s intestines containing his blood.
That day, all the men in charge of the killing told the people not to cross the Huria river or go back to their places for six months while they changed their name from Huli to Homa.
The people spoke the Homa language for six months then changed back to Huli. The reason they did this was because they were afraid that bingi, the darkness, would come to them because they had done wrong.
The darkness had occurred earlier in Huli, but on the day of Baya Baya’s death they were afraid it would return so the dindi pongone yi, the specialists who performed ground knot rituals, altered the nouns in the language to avert this.
The Huli regard darkness as punishment from Datagaliwabe and say that, since Baya Baya's death, his mother has been keeping a special pandanus tree of angalu nanenamu variety in Duna. When the tree bears fruit, darkness will occur. Since then, whenever there has been trouble, famine or drought, the people have come together at Bebenete and changed all the names around.
On the day they killed Baya Baya, they hit his mother and threw mud at her and pulled off her clothes. She ran away naked and dirty, trying to get back to her own place. On the way, the Tani clan, which had not participated in Baya Baya's murder, took her in, washed her, gave her new clothes and looked after her.
As she was leaving, Baya Baya's mother said, "Because you have looked after me and helped me in my trouble, one day you, the Tani clan, will be the largest and greatest of all the Huli clans."
So today the Tani people are the biggest and strongest clan and are growing bigger and stronger all the time. Who knows, the new Hela Governor might be from the Tani or Ni clan because the first Governor came from the place that killed Baya Baya.
Many people believe Baya Baya will one day return to the Huli area. Others fear that his kin may come and demand compensation for his death. This is a common cause for concern since all the Huli clan, except for the Tani, are responsible for his death and it is the only case in Huli history where payback has not been given.
The fact that Baya Baya was a perfect man born from a virgin who never did wrong but shed his blood to atone for the sins of all the people, suggests a connection with the Christian gospel, although there is no resurrection of Baya Baya.
A similar Messiah-like myth is found amongst the Foe, the details of which are closer to the gospel than the legend of Baya Baya. Possibly similar myths occur amongst other Huli neighbours as well.
This is the Messiah like myth found in the Foe area.
“Long ago a bird came from the sky and alighted upon a virgin woman. She saw a mark on her stomach and knew she was pregnant and a son was born.
“When he grew up he went around telling people in each village to stop killing, stealing and committing adultery.
“Because he was a good man people hated him. They wanted to continue doing evil, so they decided to kill him. He knew he would be killed, so he told his mother to come to the place where he would be killed on the fifth day after his death.
“Eventually the men in a certain longhouse grabbed him and dragged him out to kill him in the village. But he said, ‘Remember you will pollute the village if you kill me outside the village’. So they dragged him and killed him in the bush.
“They then lay his dead body on rock ledges. Five days later his mother came to the place where he had been laid, but his body was no longer there. She saw a strange light in the sky and heard a voice saying ‘Your son is no longer dead but is with his father in the sky’.”
The Messiah-like myths from the Foe and the gospel refer to the same events, but the New Testament accounts are more accurate because they were written down.
This indicates that the gospel or a version may have come to the area at least 150 years before contemporary missionary outreach.
Concerning Baya Baya the Huli say he is not Jesus Christ but God allowed this legend in their oral history so that they would understand the gospel when it came to them.