| My Land, My Country
LAE - The primary weapon of choice for the tribes spread out over the Upper Watut to Aseki, Menyamya, Kaintiba in the Gulf Province and Marawaka in the Eastern Highlands has been the bow and arrow.
Theirs was the culture into which I was immersed at an early age.
The men carried black palm bows, which were incredibly difficult to draw.
Every boy had to know how to make a bow.
The bows for play were made of bamboo.
I quickly learned that not all bamboo is equal.
The bamboo for bow making could not be harvested too young.
It had to reach a certain level of maturity so it was flexible not brittle.
Every kid had a knife with which to cut and shape the bamboo.
Each end had to be pointed to allow the bowstring to sit comfortably.
The length of the bow was shaved with a sharp knife or a piece of broken bottle. It was a skill we learned and perfected.
Once the bow was done, the next step was to go into the tall patches of kunai and find the clumps of pitpit that made perfect arrows. Pitpit grew everywhere.
For grown-ups, the bows were made of black palm and incredibly difficult to draw.
Arrows were not fired from eye level like in the movies. Mostly the archer would raise the bow up to the sky with the arm holding the bow straight.
The string would be pulled back and in one fluid motion the archer would draw and fire from the hip.
The archers had learned over generations without feathered arrows that, when fired, the projectiles would travel in an upward curve. It was a deadly weapon at short distances.
As children we imagined our own battles when we gathered to ‘fight’ out pitpit wars.
Our teachers at Menyamya Community School banned bows and arrows in the school premises because a few and boys - and birds - got injured.
It didn’t stop the battles continuing after school.
These adventures continued on weekends when we convened along the river banks.
This is another chapter of life in Menyamya. An adventure unfinished in spirit. The memories live on in time.