A Kiap’s Chronicle: 28 – In defence of the people’s land
Standing up & starting small

The wisdom from my culture

Scott Waide - "Diplomacy in the home and outside of it was a skill every man had to learn"

| My Land, My Country

LAE - Three years ago, I asked my dad what the role of women was in his culture and how women were treated. This was when another incident of violence came to the fore.

I needed to understand how his culture dealt with women and their place in society. 

My dad is a man of huge contrasts; he is an immaculately patient being with a frighteningly explosive temper.

He is not someone you would easily walk over. If you did, it was because he tolerated the situation or he walked away from a fight.

His restraint was and still is legendary. He was not a saint. He did extend his share of violence to poor unsuspecting souls who chose to pick on him.

Even in his worst, he never laid a hand on my mum.

The wisdom in his reply has stuck with me since.

His was a warrior culture, where the men pretty much ruled the daily affairs of the tribe.

The decisions on where to settle, which alliances to forge, which clans to attack and destroy were made by men.

However, the secret counsel and the influence came from the women. 

Our ancient culture understood the purpose of the man’s ego.  The women guarded it.

They did not interfere or publicly embarrass their men in front of their peers.  But in decisions that were going to be disastrous, the women chided and counselled their men.

The man’s wealth came from the women who cared for the gardens and the pigs in partnership with her man. A careless woman spelled the downfall of her husband.

Society understood that wars could be started because of the words of women and disastrous battles that could affect generations in the future could also be avoided through a woman’s counsel.

Women were not mere property.

My dad said despite the fierce reputations of the grandfathers, women were rarely beaten or abused. 

Shouting or fighting with your woman in front of your elders was shunned. It spoke of a man with boyish tendencies, unable to control his emotions and unable to function as a thinking, intelligent warrior in battle.

He said it was expensive to fix domestic disputes that came to the attention of older people in the tribe.  You had to pay compensation in pigs and whatever they demanded.

Basically, if you are man enough to strike your woman, you must have the wealth and the emotional stamina able to fix multiple relationships affected by your actions.

Diplomacy in the home and outside of it was a skill every man had to learn.

Years ago, when my mum was a feisty, hotheaded, young woman, I used to hear her say during my dad’s most frightening moments, “Noken wari, em ba no nap paitim mi.”

I understood much later why, he always calmed down.  First and foremost, he loved his woman too much to strike her. 

Second, as per the wisdom of the ancestors, it would be too emotionally expensive to fix several relationships that came with the woman he loved.

The disrespect shown to his in-laws – the young men and women who came to look up to him would be very difficult to repair.  The trust would be broken and it would take years to fix.  To restore his honour, he would work to repair all those relationships.

The parallels to the 21st century relationships remain the same.  Abuse has high penalties –emotional, financial and legal.

That is the wisdom from my culture. You have to understand your own cultural context from your elders.


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Philip Kai Morre

Women’s place in traditional society was highly valued and appreciated both because of reproduction and the division of labour to produce garden and animals.

Violence against women was not a serious issue and men were told by elders not to fight with a woman, which was the worst thing to do. In the highlands men stayed in the men's house and had no time to interfere with their wives.

In today's neo-contemporary culture and modernisation, women feel the threat of violence which has different forms and meanings.

Women feel that they are given so many problems from men and their dignity is undermined: true love is superficial and true feelings and intimacy are missing.

Research has shown that family violence is caused by lack of trust in marriage, communication breakdown, male dominance and control, feelings of isolation and depression, negligence, intimacy problems, adultery, polygamy and economic pressures.

Kenny Pawa

Moral decay and misunderstanding our partner may be the cause of domestic violence. Now a days, people misunderstand the needs of their partners and also fail to take up their responsibilities as a husband or wife and parent. But learning from our culture can cure or solve the problem of domestic violence. One such culture that PNG should embrace highly is the culture of applying Christian principles. I am convinced that living a life full of Christian faith can lead us to overcome violence.

Baka Bina

Mr Waide has expounded on the notion of having peace in his house with the story of his father.

It was similar to my upbringing. I can remember my parents fighting one time only in my memory. It was vicious and my father had to pay the price for it for the rest of his life.

A decade later, after my mother died, he never remarried and lived for 30 years more all the time rueing the day he had been brutal to his wife.

When I had small confrontations with my own wife, he would breach my door and remind me that you must return to see the smoke or you're doomed. Growing up in the village I can still relate to that now.

How do we pass on that to children who have never seen smoke come out of rafters of kunai or palm fronds that were thatched for a roof?

Baka Bina

"Late in the evening, when a man sees smoke coming from his house, his stomach will be settled. If there is no smoke, his stomach is unsettled, leaving a man to question his inner self."

This was the wisdom of the elders left on the wayside as people no longer sit down and listen to the sage wisdom from people who experienced life before them - those who saw the sun first. (Taken from my story, 'Smoke from the House' in the book 'Musings From Sogopex'.)

Domestic violence is prevalent and in the open in Papua New Guinea. It was always here before and is still going on - reinvented in a myriad of new ways.

But the adage of 'seeing smoke coming from the house in the evening' was a powerful statement in a rural village when in a monogamous relationship and may not be true in towns and in a polygamous relationships. The settling of stomach never happens in these relationships.

Perhaps KJ may want to republish that story to remind us that a person's stomach will remain at peace if he knows that there will be smoke in the house in the evening when he comes home and it is his responsibility to make sure that there is always smoke in the house in the afternoon.

Baka's story 'The smoke from the house', which tells of these important lessons he learned from his father, will be published on Sunday - KJ

Gideon Kindiwa

A man's true strength is not shown in his hands, but in his ability to restrain from using them. PNG needs real men who posses wisdom, self control and respect. Physical violence against women and children was not part of our cultures. It never was.
I feel encouraged reading this. Wisdom for all men.

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