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Agiba figure (Gulf)LIGGIE KARE | The Crocodile Prize
| Cleland Award for Heritage Literature

Soukuru are the invisible bush people of the Gulf Province. They are like dwarfs: short, unselfish and full of either good luck or bad luck depending on the type of person you are. They protect the bush and its riches, whether gold, oil, secret places, plants or animals.

I wrote about the soukuru because I was thinking a new LNG project might be established in my village and how it would disturb the people and the environment. I believed the soukuru could wreak havoc on the newcomers. If the right steps are followed, perhaps some form of symbiosis could be maintained. Then you will not hear from the soukuru again.

Over screaming fires under the Karama moonlight
Small children gather to hear of the soukuru
Their ears tuned in to its fullest
To the words escaping the storyteller’s buai-stained lips
Just a few metres away, the waves create a soundtrack
Washing to the shore the jellyfish
caught in a tempest beyond the horizon
Moving air blowing through fallen leaves
The whistling grasses seem to come alive
A hot fire effortlessly fights the wind
Protecting the children from the cold

The night sand, solar charged from the day,
radiates heat for children's feet
The energy of curiosity seeps through their pores
Keenly awaiting

The storyteller pretends to not see their restlessness
Shaves the skin of her fere before chewing, as is her habit
Breaks open the nut, chews on the inside flesh
Betelnut to mouth
Mustard and crushed shell lime
One spit
She begins

"Mere kekae, ma o metaka avapa
Soukuru mija
Erero levi eova, ere ove everapi meove
Ere mea kiva karu, karu hea lasoka meove
Ere mere kekae lori leivija karu
Ah hea karu ma meove; ere pisoso aiverovija karu
Soa hea ere moe fisii lei meovija, erero karu hea eovove
La ere aro seseova soa heaove
Ah seo or haroka
Karu meta ro, ere kiva leive
Ae ere aro etau ekakapo aiverai
Soa ekapo leitija ere aro aupaea”

“Erero ere ija, muri, or oil eaeai oti satiriora
Ah tapora loroija,
Ah ekoroa metameta laeovija
Levi paea
Ah ijakea laeovija
Levi paea
Erero omeai tija
Ija a tei forera
Hasu sisi aufa tavi avapove
Soukuru avapa tija, are ija meta kofa aro aiverai"

“Children, listen to me well
The soukuru
Small build, invisible people of the bush
Land protectors, some say
Baby stealers, others say
Fortune granters, few say
Only those allowed to see them will see
But they will test you
Your character
Bad person, they hurt or kill you
They give you bad luck
Good person, they protect you
Give you pigs, gold, oil from its source”

“You go to hunt
You see a big snake
Do not kill it yet
You see a big pig
Do not kill it yet
Ask for permission from the bush
Tell it you want to eat pork tonight
The bush listens
The soukuru will hear you and send you best pig”

Eyes wide and filled with awe
Children whisper amongst themselves
For young eyes, so pure and so innocent
Are opened
They listen to the soukuru woman

And, just as she came for story,
She is gone


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Suzie Maki

Beautiful story, Liggie. Heard one too many of them.

Keep writing my sister.

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