My Tolai way of life

By Majella Diulen

An entry in the Cleland Award for Heritage Literature

I am a Tolai, I am a friend. Come to my house and I’ll make you a delicious aigir of taro, bananas, aibika and native chicken meat. A bunch of betel nut and mustard will be prepared for you.

I am a Tolai. I dance to the beat of the garamut, with my red laplap wrapped around my waist and stretching down to my knees. Totally shirtless.

My basket under my armpit, distinguished by pes kambang, shouting and twisting as the kangal on my head sway back and forth and from side to side in time with the twists and turns of my tumbuan.

I am a Tolai. I dance to the beat of the bamboo drums. My chicken feathers wrapped in scented green leaves sway to and fro as my arms swing back and forth, from side to side with the rhythm of the bamboo drums.

My face is covered in red and green paint with dotted white spot under my eyes. As I do my moves, my colorful headdress of birds’ feathers sway blissfully. In my red laplap and stringed tanget leaves around my breasts, I sing and dance with pride in my famous Kuanua language.

I am a Tolai. I mourn the dead with sorrow. I show my gratitude to the mourners with my Tolai money, the tabu. It is my wealth and my identity.

I am a Tolai, I am a friend. With me is my basket, full of buai, daka and kambang. My lips are red with my mouth full of betel-nut. My home grown tobacco, the brus accompanies my buai. I chat in Tolai dialect everywhere I go. Being a Tolai, my identity, my pride.

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