Sheena’s writing journey: The hobby that became a way of life
A Kiap’s Chronicle: 25 – The Administration versus the People

The Case of a Kuman Ambai

Kuman ambaiDIU NORA KOIMA | The Crocodile Prize
| Abt Associates Award for Women’s Writing

Above all other roles and personalities I may play and possess,
I am first and foremost a Kuman Ambai by blood and earth
The words I speak, the way I speak them and
How I want my words to influence others
Amount to the Kuman Ideology.
Every word and action is either an idiom, a meme,
A metaphor, and at other times, a personification
Served in every line of a short dialogue
Sarcasm and satire are served by bucket loads.
And no, it is not for the fun of it. It is just how it is.

By blood and earth, I am a Kuman Ambai,
I can never tell someone who has displeased me
That I do not appreciate their actions or words.
I can only vent my frustrations at another Kuman near me
In the presence of those who have displeased me.
My hope it that the message carries through
Ah! Some instances tell me my ploy has not turned out well.
They keep on displeasing me.

I am a Kuman Ambai by blood and earth,
I cannot speak or immerse in matters of the heart
Alas! I am scared of feeling guilty for no reason and
Bringing blood to my face.
A family member's stupidity is my lesson to learn.
The trouble maker may be absent,
And still the tongue-lashing will happen.
The "We" language is mantra. It is most important.
There is no I, he, she, or they.

Kuman by blood, wrought on earth,
Woe to her who forgets
That uncles are her protectors when conflicts arise.
They will either curse her or bless her.
So she must borne the burden of entertaining their whims
Like the blue moon,
She only finds one in thirty or so of their requests, genuine.
Parents cannot stress further how important
Their brothers are in the children's lives.
And children need not look far for examples of what not to be.

White earth under her finger nails and Kuman on her tongue,
A customary marriage would appease the ancestors, and
Bring good fortune to her house.
May the tribesman eat some pork fat and drink some local brew.
May the aunts wear new sandals and meri blouses.
May the old men wear cowboy hats and crocodile belts.
May the mothers put shiny oil on her skin
For the whole community to see;
Their daughter is being wedded off to another tribe.

Many titles and personalities,
But the Kuman Ambai stands tall, and stands out.
She does not exist on her own or for herself.
She is for the people and with the people she must remain.
Before words part her lips,
She must search deep within for the right ones to use
When she listens, she must decipher the tune and the tone,
And pick up the unspoken paragraphs within two sentences.
Her story is not of her own victories.
Her victories are for her Kuman People.


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Stephen Henningham

Hello Keith - You and your readers may be interested in a further publication on Australia and Papua New Guinea in the 'Documents on Australian Foreign Policy Series'.

This new volume is edited by (the late) Bruce Hunt & Stephen Henningham, with the title 'Australia and Papua New Guinea: the Push to Independence, 1972--1975''.

It follows on from the volume, also edited by Hunt & Henningham, on 'Australia and Papua New Guinea, 1972--1972: the Transition to Self-Government'; and from the volume edited by Stuart Doran on 'Australia and Papua New Guinea, 1966--1969'.

If you or an associate would be interested in doing a review or short notice on the new volume, please send me an email address and a postal address to which we can send the volume.

Thanks indeed for PNG Attitude, which I have been reading with great interest, and from which I have learnt a lot.

Diu Nora Koima

Garry - Thank you for your comment. If it weren't for your mentioning part of the poem by Aubrey de Vere, I would not have even thought to research for other poems similar to what I have done. I am glad you wrote some part of it.

And please forgive me for my ignorance of great poems. I will read more. Aubrey has managed to capture the inner most thoughts of brides the world over.

If I were reading this exact part of the poem to young married women in my clan, many if not most would agree that this poem describes to a greater extent how they felt on their day of marriage.

Now, my culture is different to others but some aspects of it or some practices involved may be similar. This is comforting for me as it is always nice to find things in common with other cultures especially outside of my country.

You are right in suspecting even deeper meanings hidden in the poem. There is so much to tell of yet I use very little words as that is how I was brought up to speak.

Say no more than you have to and let the other person interpret it; to understand what you mean. I know it can be frustrating if the other person does not speak the Kuman way. But for me to speak frankly about something or to a person would be breaking tradition.

On another note, responding to your comment has inspired me to write a sequel to my first entry, if ever there were sequels to poetry pieces. aha! Part 2 is more like it.

William - Thank you for mentioning that poem. I shall definitely check it out. I like the style of writing already.

William Dunlop

Gary - The wee robin red breast, brings to mind an entirely different few lines by Duncan Macrae. I recall hearing them as a then small boy: "A wee cock sparrow sat on a barra, up came a boy with a bow and arra and shot the wee cock sparra. "

Speaking of Scottish verse, here's a favourite - KJ

"One bright day in the middle of the night
two dead men got up tae fight
back tae back
They faced each other
Pulled out their swords
and shot each other.
a blind man saw it
a deaf man heard it
and a lame man ran for the ambulance
the ambulance came wae nae wheels
ran over a deid cat and half kilt it"

Garry Roche

Diu Nora Koima, thank you for your thought provoking poem.

For me, the poem ‘The Case of a Kuman Ambai’, indicates that the underlying culture is still very strong, and perhaps also that the Kuman speaking people still have a good strong sense of pride in their culture.

I also suspect that a deeper knowledge of the culture would reveal deeper meanings in the poem.

While accepting that Kuman culture is unique, some of the reference to customary marriage, reminds me that some other folk-cultures, even distant ones, may share some similar themes.

Diu Nora Koima writes: "A customary marriage would appease the ancestors / Their daughter is being wedded off to another tribe."

This reminded me of some lines of a poem entitled ‘The Wedding of the Clans’, a poem that Diu Nora Koima would never have heard of:

I go to knit two clans together:
Our clan and this clan unseen of yore:-
Our clan fears nought! But I go, O whither?
This day I go from my mother’s door.

Thou redbreast sing’st the old song over,
Though many a time thou hast sung it before:
They never sent thee to some strange new lover:-
I sing a new song by my mother’s door.

I stepp’d from my little room down by the ladder,
The ladder that never so shook before;
I was sad last night; to-day I am sadder,
Because I go from my mother’s door.

Part of a poem by Aubrey de Vere (1814-1902)

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