My true identity is revealed through my cultural traditions

By Cathy Undaba

An entry in the Cleland Award for Heritage Literature

It’s a fact that Papua New Guinea is made up of more than 800 languages and has diverse cultural traditions, customs, beliefs and values compared to other countries. Every village and place that you go, it has its own unique cultural practise that you have to abide by. The cultural heritage in Papua New Guinea is inherited through spoken words from generation to generation.

I was so amazed and couldn’t wait to take the next step to approach the stage. The feeling was really indeed a great sense of cultural explorations which made everything around me comparable with the different cultural groups that came from the twenty- two different provinces around Papua New Guinea. It was 16th September Independence Day and many students were all dressed by their parents in their cultural attires and ready to expose their skills and talents.

As for me, I had to get prepared and dress myself due to the absence of my parents. My face was painted and drawn with different designs. And the tapa cloth was worn around my waist. The tapa cloth is made out of a bark of a tree which goes through different processes until at last the designs are put on and is used as a piece of cloth to cover the women’s body. It serves different purposes but it is used especially for cultural events now a days.

My colourful headdress made from bird of paradise was put on around my head. And the necklaces and bilums made out of shells were all put around my neck. Boom, boom, I could hear the beat of the kundu drums when my name was called to go forward and raise my provincial flag. I couldn’t take it. Tears started trickling down my chin as I rose up and danced to the beat of the kundu with pride and happiness. That instant moment, I could really feel that my cultural costumes were so unique and outstanding compared to the other twenty one provinces.

As I was approaching the flag pole, the Aleksandra bird wing butterfly looked so colourful with the golden yellow, green, red, and black colours on the flag swaying with the flow of the wind while the people of Northern gave a warm welcome by saying,’’ ORO, ORO, ORO, Kaiva’’. The phrase Oro, Oro, Oro Kaiva is a way in which the people of Northern use to welcome people. As I heard that, my mind couldn’t stop thinking about the beautiful fjords, traditional customs and the village lifestyle that I missed a lot back at my home Tufi. It was my first time to dress in my traditional costumes and the fact that I performed in another province with the absence of my parents. It was too much for me to take in. However it was indeed a great and memorable event that took place in my secondary level at Aiyura National High School in Eastern Highlands province. As I raised the flag of Northern, I felt the real identity of an Oro kavian woman.

At last my parents were so proud when they had about it because it revealed my true cultural identity of belonging to a tribe, clan, community, society, province and a nation as a whole.

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