Remembering the life of a great Simbu man, my bubu Pius
19 June 2016
I THINK this is one of the best photographs I have ever taken. It is of Bubu Pius (Pews) and my wife Rose at Kundiawa a few years ago.
Bubu was Rose's grand-dad and was one of the first Simbu people to meet the early explorer Jim Taylor.
He died three years ago aged anything between 95 and 200 (the family always exaggerates). I think he was probably in his mid-nineties.
Bubu always refused to live in a house; he slept in the hauskuk (kitchen) where he could look after the pigs.
He was a lovely man, and I have only just started to have an understanding of him.
We gave him a Simbu bilum cap, which he wore until he died. He was the subject of my first article on 27 June 2010, when I was just referring to myself as Peter.
June is the anniversary of his death, and here’s that first article:
Pius: Magical monsters, dealing death & glory
MY old bubu in Kundiawa (who recently died) was one of the first local people to meet the white men.
His name was Pius (pronounced Pews in the family). He was a teenager when Jim Taylor's expedition first arrived in Simbu in the late thirties.
Because he was one of the first locals to learn Tok Pisin he was employed as an interpreter.
In Pius’s memory, those early settlers were not benevolent. Jim Taylor was like a malign despot who killed many people and treated the locals very badly.
Pius's stories about the early Australian administration were disturbing. His job was to arouse the villagers in the morning to work on the Kundiawa airstrip.
The airstrip was built by forcibly recruiting local villagers to carry big rocks from Wara Simbu to make the foundations - you can see them to this day.
If people did not get up at sunrise and get to the works on time, they were beaten and sometimes killed. They were not paid, other than a bit of food twice a day, which was inadequate.
Some starved, some were beaten to death, some died of cold and overwork. A local anecdote to be sure, but history must see the past from both sides.
According to Bubu Pius, Jim Taylor and the early Australians were magical monsters, dealing death and glory with the same hand.
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