Barets, barter & buai on the Sepik
26 May 2021
| Auna Melo
KEMBIAM, SEPIK RIVER - The Sepik River has hundreds of lakes (raunwara), maybe more than hundreds, that are 300-500 meters from the main river.
These lakes are connected to the river by narrow waterways that allow people to access the lakes from the river.
And where there is no waterway, the people dig their own baret to allow canoes to travel inland.
The photo shows a baret dug by the people of Kembiam village in the Kambu area, who live about an hour’s walk inland of the Sepik River.
The baret was made so people from Korogu village, on the banks of the Sepik, can travel inland in their canoes to sell and trade.
This shows how resilient the people are. In the absence of government action they make their own way to receive goods and services from their river family.
The passage is about two meters wide and two to three meters deep, enough for a dugout canoe with a 40 horse power motor engine to pass through.
Further upstream is the central trading location.
Korogu on the Sepik River has no land for gardening, nor betel nut and coconuts. But it can bring fish from the river.
The Yamuk people inland have good land for things like betel nut (buai) and sago (saksak).
For generations these two tribes have traded between the river and the inland.
The trade system both supplies goods and maintains a relationship that has existed for generations.
The Yamuk people are mother to the Korogu, supplying saksak, buai and garden food.
The Korogu people are son to the Yamuk, providing fish for the inland people.
At the market, they start off buying and selling using modern money. And everything is less than 50 toea.
Once the buying and selling is done, the bartering begins.
I learned about barter trading at school but the first time I witnessed it was between the Yamuk and Korogu people here on the Sepik River.
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