What is love
A family conversation about Bougainville independence

My culture, my identity

Abigail SetaABIGAIL SETA | An entry in the Crocodile Prize Cleland Heritage Writing Award

KAIRUKU - I couldn’t help but feel overwhelming pride for my culture as the beautiful bright yellow and red colours were painted skilfully on my face. A proud Mekeo woman, I was at that moment.

Although overwhelmed, I did feel sad that my family was not present to witness their daughter, sister, niece and granddaughter dress in Kairuku’s outstanding traditional attire and sway to the famous Kairuku ribiri song.

As I wore my grass skirt which fell all the way down to my feet, I began to remember stories told to me by my grandmother when I was growing up. Times when my brother and I would be too much for her to handle and she’ll tell us about the struggles she went through when she was in the village.

She would speak in Mekeo language and later in English: “You children are so lucky today, you have clothes to wear.”

We played around and never really took to heart what she meant or mostly we’d ignore statements like these.

She’d continue; “My time, we never had clothes. I wore only grass skirt without any clothing whatsoever and crossed rivers to get to school.”

As a child then, I never realised the struggles she went through. She’d talk to us, we never really listened, we only heard.

While thinking back, it dawned on me that we never stopped to think that our grandparents and great-grandparents gave up so much of their cultural heritage to leave the village life and bring us out to the city where we don’t experience the hardships and challenges they had gone through. We have it easy.

Thus, I wore my grass skirt that day with my grandmother on my mind. Yes, the grass skirt was uncomfortable, I couldn’t sit; I could only stand and I tried to imagine the discomfort my grandmother had had.

For me, I compared it with what I wear today and I just couldn’t imagine that this piece of traditional attire, beautiful but uncomfortable was worn everyday by her.

Sometimes it takes being far away from home to realise the beauty of your cultural heritage.

Dressing up in your traditional attire and performing in another province is an emotional experience, you have a sense of pride for your culture and you know you’re also representing your people back home. I would say I definitely wore my heart on my grass skirt.

Link to the Crocodile Prize website here


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Iso Yawi

Abigail, this piece is inspiring. Keep it up. Thumbs up for you!

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