Papua New Guinea’s prime minister James Marape recently visited Kainantu and, upon his arrival, walked along a prepared pathway of bilums, the woven string bags that are utilitarian, symbolic of the strength of women and culturally very meaningful. The prime minister’s action generated significant public rebuke, which he sought to address in this response - KJ
Sorry I could not respond earlier as I was down with heavy fever the last few days.
My sincere apologies to all who took offence at the gesture by some Kainantu mothers through their District Development Authority.
I tried evading but the crowd including mothers who made the bilums were there shepherding me into that path.
I can understand the uproar: I was in a bilum as a baby; from bilums food was brought home; in bilums wealth was stored.
The bilum is our woven story and I totally understand the feelings of those who thought we were disrespectful to the importance of the role bilum is to us.
And I am sorry for offending this moral conscience of our heritage.
If you care to understand in the Kainantu context. My chopper landed 800 meters from the meeting area.
I walked most of the 800 meters in mud to get to the last 20 meters where mothers had laid the bilums in my path.
That was maybe their way of welcoming my delegation to the stage.
I have been travelling to many parts of our country and we all have our own ways of receiving visitors.
For instance when I visited my wife’s tribe in the Chambri Lakes area, they asked me to walk through or over her aunties who were lying down on the path.
I refused but they told me clearly I was disrespectful to them if I didn’t do it their way.
The point is, in our diversity of culture and character, we do things differently in different parts of our country and if the welcome occasion last Friday caused offence to any of you then I do apologise.
I did walk on mud for most of that 800 meters. I guess that’s not worth being angry about too.
I apologise to those who are offended.