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Yumi karim lek

Karim lekLYNETTE KERENGA | Crocodile Prize
| An entry in the Cleland Award for Heritage Literature

See footnote

Aiiii yaaa wuuuu……
The chanting of my mamas’ echoes
Through the fertile Wahgi Valley
Up and down the dirty Wara Wahgi
The kundu drums beat

The singsing has started. People are still coming;
the neighbouring villages and tribes
The singsing echoes to the beat
of the famous kundu drums
The glorious tumbo and mek
swishes towards the steps of the dancers
Ol whiteman sa tok the bird of paradise headdress”,
my bubu would say

The singsing continues as one of my uncles
grabs a kundu off a girl in the singsing group
The handsome warrior from another tribe
grabs a spear off another girl in the singsing group
The hardworking girl everyone’s talking about
grabs a kundu off the chief’s son.

Slowly the singsing departs
and everyone gathers before the big haus kunai
“Ladies first,” as the westerners say
The girls make their way into the big haus kunai
Hot, yellow and orange blazing flames
from the burning wood lights up the house.

The cool mountain breeze moves the air outside,
everyone eagerly waits to go inside
The boys not far behind, find a seat between each girl
Everyone’s excited, but with respect
and full of humility, they sit around the fire

Aiii yaaaa wuuu…..
The karim lek is about to start
Arm in arm in a circle
around the glowing orange flames.
The karim lek singsing begins,
louder and louder they intone
Heads turning sideways, back and forth
Simultaneously, flawlessly, everyone together
The day creatures are annoyed
Can’t have a good night’s sleep
The bats, owls and night creatures
peer behind trees and tall grasses

Red and yellow,
Yes! My favourite colours
Everyone’s face has some of it
Nature’s pigments from nature’s garden
tolmon tree’s fruits for red
and bungor roots for yellow

The blazing flame reflects the shiny, oily pig grease
on perfect melanin skin, texture from head to toe
Feet covered in mal-bang, the red dirt
Night creatures gaze, some even frightened

The night is still young
A full moon
The sky is clear
The Southern Cross shines brighter
The singsing echoes
Along the Wahgi Valley;
through its dense forest;
up and down the mighty Wara Wahgi
Where Wahgi besta and tilapia fish have multiplied
I bet you, the mythical Wara Wahgi creatures
and our ancestors are smiling with pride.


Arnold Mundua writes:

Karim lek is a courtship custom where young people meet in the night to sit, share and express love, joy and affection through exchanges of serenades and courtship songs known as giglange-kaugo. Commonly known as kumugl-ambai-kaugo, the practise was popular throughout Simbu and bordering areas including Minj, Banz, Nondugl and Jimi.

There are three types of karim lek popular in Upper Simbu: the kua-nade, where participants exceed more than 20; the gilange-kaugo, where participants number more than five but less than 10 with the number of boys exceeding the girls; and the most intimate of all, the kumugl-ambai-kaugo, where the participants comprise mostly affectionate partners numbering less than four (two boys, two girls) or just a boy and a girl.


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Michael Dom

This is a valuable poetic record and tribute to an almost lost custom.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I think the Crocodile Prize may have discovered another major literary talent in Lynette Kerenga.

Could we have some personal details about her?

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