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The hind foot competition

Grasshopper
The Peië grasshopper

AISHII NOKOVANO GITEHOMA
| Transcribed by Emily Bina

KOTIYUFA VILLAGE 2013 - Gholou-e valley, before human beings arrived, was occupied by two tribes of grasshoppers. One was the dull brown coloured Ganu tribe. The other was the multi-coloured Peië.

During the dry season, as leaves of plants matured and died, the food source for grasshoppers would diminish. As the dry season got longer, the competition for good green leaves to eat became intense.

The chiefs of the two tribes of grasshoppers would call a meeting to set a time for the rain dance. 

When it rained, it watered the plants, the plants put out new leaves and then the grasshoppers had plenty of food. 

There was now an urgency to hurry along the rainy season.  The grasshoppers had their singsing ground at the Paketo Marshes at the foot of Mitega Hill.

It was a good spot because the other animals could watch from the side of the mountain while the singsing took place in the flats below.

All living creatures came from far and wide to see the spectacle of colours of what was now billed as the Ganukanu Singsing. 

The tribes of Ganu and Peië were famous for their artworks. They knew all the colour combinations of the plants, flowers, roots and barks which they used to colour themselves and their fineries.

The Ganukanu singsings were the best in the valley with all the best hue of colours and sounds in the land.  They did all types of singsing – the short ghahise, the long ghahise, the tritoro, the wesan sulu and the alu sama - and with so many change of costumes that it guaranteed to be a mind-defying day. 

Best of all, the final of the competition was when the grasshoppers made synchronised beats and sounds using their hind legs.  This was special because it was believed that the rubbing of the hind feet summoned the rain clouds.    This was called the Competition of the Hind Foot. 

Paketo Marsh was divided into two parts and the two tribes took their place on each side - the Ganu tribe took the northern side and the Peië Tribe took the southern side.

The judges to this last competition had been always the two chiefs of the tribes. 

However, every year for a long, long time, Chief Ganu and Chief Peië could never agree on the winner. 

Each of the drummers did their best to outdo the others so that, eventually, it all became a huge choir.  A competitor doing his own special beat was somehow always worked into the beat of the others so that it sounded as though it was a trick or ruse by the whole competition.

The synchronised sound of so many hind feet rubbing soon sounded like thunder which soon brought the rain clouds over the mountains into the Gholou-e valley.  With so much sound, the chiefs always found it difficult to judge which tribe was best.

This singsing time, the chiefs decided they wanted to settle this problem of finding a winner by appointing another person should to be the judge.  After much discussion and debate, it was finally decided that Getipolo would be the judge of the final event, the Competition of the Hind foot.

So, after all the other singsings had been completed and when the competition of the hind foot was called, the two chiefs made the announcement that Getipolo would judge the Competition of the Hind Foot.

Getipolo had been chosen because he had the best natural dance beat and rhythm.  He was so good at strutting his wings and tail to his songs and could step dances that no other birds did.  He was also a good show off.

He was given a high place at the singsing and all those who came to the singsing acknowledged him.

He grew and grew in the respect he was given. So when the competition started and he took his judging position, his head was so full of his own pride.

The competition started and Getipolo began judging.  He walked to the front of the competitors of the Ganu and Peië tribes and listened closely to the different styles in the beating and rubbing of the hind legs.  

He listened to the different beats and long rolls here and the long rolls there.  He listened to the gimbals here and there.  He noted the tomtom beats. 

But he did not just walk among the competitors.  He strutted his feathers and wagged his tail.  He jumped small jumps here and big jumps there.  He soared in small flights here and big flights there.  Finally, he danced to the beat and rhythms of the grasshoppers’ hind foot beat.

He was enjoying himself so much that, in time, he forgot to complete the judging.

Meanwhile, the grasshoppers were waiting for him to make a decision and they made even more hind foot music which grew in volume so that it drew in all the other grasshoppers in the valley who were not part of the competition to join in the hind foot music.

And soon the rains came. 

The grasshoppers had made such a racket that the clouds heard them and came from far and wide.  The whole valley was covered with clouds: big clouds and small clouds, white clouds and black clouds. 

The rains fell all afternoon, and they fell short and long; they fell light and heavy and they fell in small hailstorms and big hailstorms.

The competition dancers waited patiently in the rain for Getipolo to make a decision.  As they waited, and waited, the marshes began to fill up with water.   Still, the chiefs asked the competition to continue and so the grasshoppers still continued their beating of their hind feet. 

Getipolo was still strutting his thing.  He did not just walk.  He strutted his feathers and wagged his tail.  He jumped small jumps here and big jumps there. 

He soared small flights here and big flights there. He did small and long rolls, he did light and heavy muruk walks, he rolled small hailstorms and there. 

He continued to forget that he was the judge of the competition and that the dancers were still waiting for him to make a decision.

And the rain continued to fall. And Paketo marsh filled up.  Getipolo ignored the rain and just continued to dance to beat of the hind feet.

Eventually, the grasshoppers had rubbed their hind feet so much that they had no strength to kick themselves high and fly away.  So they could not escape the rising waters in marshes.

Poor Getipolo, he was so conceited that he never chose a winner as he was still doing his struts and dances. And most of the competitors in the Paketo Marshes drowned when the creeks overflowed the marshes.

The two grasshopper chiefs of Ganu and Peië regretted choosing another person to be the judge.  They collected the remnants of their tribes and flew away. 

Before they did so, they placed a curse on Getipolo that he and his descendants would forever dance around excreta.

So Getipolo and his clan are always doing exactly the same dance styles that he performed for the Ganukanu competition wherever there is excreta lying around – and especially near pit toilets.

This is the legacy that his descendants inherited from the curses of Chief Ganu and Peië.

Willy Wagtail
The Toilet Keeper

Edited by Baka Bina for ‘Antics of Alonaa Volume 2’ with editorial assistance from Ed Brumby

Notes

Getipolo = Willy Wagtail or 'Toilet Keeper' (Tokano language)

Ganukanu = grasshoppers (Tokano)

Ganu = shorter version of Ganukanu

Gholou-e = Goroka, literal translation, ‘the dawn has broken’

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