WABAG – One of the many rare photographs in my new book, 'Victory Song of Pingeta's Daughter', is an image of an elderly woman sitting on the wrapped body of a warrior killed in tribal war that has been hung on a pole.
Below the body and her, other women mourn. How she climbed on to the pole, I do not know.
There are no signs of men. They are all away fighting.
The photo was supplied to me by kiap Barry Taverner who served in Wapenamanda in Enga Province in the late 1960s. He also provided photos of warriors bearing with bows and arrows and the corpse of a just killed man lying on the ground.
These days, many more men, sometimes over 200, are killed during a single tribal war involving high powered guns. Explosives have been used too in some parts of the highlands.
Each body is mourned, speeches are delivered and much cash, food (including cartons upon cartons of Coke), lamb flaps, live pigs and garden produce is heaped up.
So much wealth is generated by the death of that one person.
Politicians are always expected to contribute more cash. If they contribute less, they will be ridiculed. Votes will go to somebody else at the next election.
More wealth will be generated when final compensation is negotiated by both warring tribes.
More speeches will be exchanged. More time will be consumed talking and negotiating to reach an agreement.
And often, more arguments between relatives of the deceased will erupt over who should have which pig or receive how much cash.
Sometimes violent deaths occur. More mourning, more killing, more destruction.
It’s a common sight to see bodies received at airports with much frenzy - shouting, wailing, horns blaring, much noise....
In a long convoy, the body is driven home where a special burial place has been prepared for the coffin.
More contributions of cash and kind. More wailing, speeches, distribution of cash and food, and arguments between relatives. The circle seems endless.
Modern haus krais have become a wealth generating venture.