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New book from Highlands holds nothing back

Johannes and Rose Kundal  30th wedding anniversary  2009
Johannes and Rose Kundal,  30th wedding anniversary,  2009


‘Legend of the Miok Egg: A True Enga Family Tale’ by Daniel Kumbon and Johannes Kulimbao Kundal, paperback, independently published, $26.24. Available here from Amazon Australia

FOREWORD - As an Australian who has enjoyed a long association with Papua New Guinea I tend to assume that I know a lot about the people and their cultures.

It is only when I read books like this one that I realise my knowledge is limited.

While I may know the technicalities of many of the varied cultures it is their lived experience that I lack.

Without actually living within a culture, as opposed to merely observing it, understanding can never be complete.

One of the main reasons why this is so is that as an observer I tend to use my own cultural traits and norms to interpret what I am seeing and hearing.

This becomes even more complicated when such cultures have been subjected to outside influences, such as missions or the influx of people from other places outside the area.

These hybrid cultures, which are now common in Papua New Guinea, are extremely fluid and variable depending upon the underlying strength of the traditional culture and the depth of the influences impacting upon it.

Miok coverThis works both ways of course. As I use my own cultural traits to misinterpret what I am seeing so do the people I am observing use their own cultural traits to misinterpret the outside influences impacting upon them.

It is only through accounts like the one in this book that the contradictions which such conflations produce become apparent.

The book, in effect, becomes a useful substitute for the absence of a lived experience.

In the early part of the book, for instance, the narrator, Johannes Kundal describes how he and his wife, Rose, adopted six children when they were unable to have more children after the birth of their son, Ishmael.

Each adoption is a story in itself and illustrates the way Engan extended families relate to the care and fostering of their children.

Gifting a child to a couple unable to have children is a common form of adoption in Enga Province and elsewhere in Papua New Guinea but is not a common practice in Australian culture.

Contrasted with the way complex child custody matters operate in my own culture the Engan approach seems decidedly casual but remarkably effective.

Rather than grappling with cold and unemotional legalities the Engan approach takes the welfare of the child and the community as its first priority.

If Johannes and Rose had had to deal with the same issues in my culture it is highly unlikely that the outcomes described in the book would have come to pass.

And yet, upon reading the rationalisations that came into play and how they were worked out I have been able to interpret them in their correct context.

Further on in the book other situations are described involving his family with equal detail and are just as enlightening for non-Engan readers.

Johannes Kulimbao Kundal
Johannes Kundal

A major theme is the positive impact that Christianity is having on the age-old problem of tribal warfare.

I have read and edited a number of autobiographies by Papua New Guinean writers in the last ten years or so but this one is by far the most frank and open. Johannes has to be commended for his courageous account.

As he says in the book: “I have held back nothing. When I talk about my own son, Ishmael in this account I hope young people will not make the same mistakes and ruin their lives.”

From a stapled together A4-size manuscript the editor Daniel Kumbon has taken Johannes’ story and created a fascinating and highly readable account of a life and career in Enga Province that should stand as an example to young people there and elsewhere in Papua New Guinea.


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Jimmy Awagl

Congratulations Daniel Kumbon.

Daniel Kumbon

Thanks Baka Bina for the comments. We must keep the literary flame burning no matter what and leave a legacy for our children.

I believe this strongly, so much so that I used the following quote in the book.

“Knowing our story will help us to know ourselves, others, the very story of life, and the universe around us better than we had before.

"It has been said that our ability to see our life as a comprehensible story is a key to our own happiness. Life stories make up the thread that connects the human family.

"It may well be that we can leave no greater legacy than the story of our life" - Robert Atkinson, The Gift of Stories

Baka Bina

New PNG writing has been on the slow this last year.

When Covid could have kept us home and writing, instead we have been on social media enjoying its Koolaid and poison.

I think the retinas in most of our eyes are now coloured. opaque.

In all this, Daniel takes the time to move mists from our eyes to bring a freshness that gives joy to those who write. Congratulations to DK and Mr Kundal.

Both relate well I am sure to a lot of father's pains these days.

We want the best for our children and we do try in our feeble attempts to do that, but what the children decide is what they think is best for them and hell bedone the consequences.

Mr Kundal's experiences is endemic through out. Only a blessed few have bliss where their children strive after their parents heart.

I agree with Mr Fitzpatrick that reading and lived experience should make one reflective, especially the young ones in school so they can be guided on the experiences of life.

A good author always provides us readers with stunning insights. Kumbon does. So does Bina. There are few others. I'm grateful for these two - KJ

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