My Nakanai way of life

By Emma Avea

An entry in the Cleland Award for Heritage Literature

Mumu is a traditional method of cooking which is a integral part of Nakanai people of West New Britian.

Mumu is a unique way in which the people of West New Britain do for every big occasions such as family gatherings, church days and graduation ceremonies.

It is prepared by heating stones over the fire for 30 minutes up to one hour depending on which ever food being cooked in the mumu. While the stones are been heated, the banana leaves are waved over the heat just before rapping the food to increase its durability. Banana leaves are placed on the centre of the hot stones than food is being placed on the banana leaves. Cassava is the staple food of Nakanai people and it is cooked mainly with banana, yam, taro, seafood, chicken and pork.

When a girl is been initiated, she must have all the attributes that are required in a Nakanai women especially the skills on how to prepare the mumu because it is part of the Nakanai lifestyle and is practised every day.

The atmosphere that surrounded me was full of the different West New Britain cultural and traditional customs which made me proud. I couldn’t wait for my initiation day. It was a dream come true for my mother to exactly see the women I’ll become.

All this years that she was preparing me for was eventually going to take place. West New Britain is a matriarchy society therefore my mother’s people had to do the initiation ceremony for me.

I couldn’t wait to actually do the mumu for the first time with the skills I attributed to my mother. By the inspection of my aunties and grandmothers I completed the mumu and finally at last they told me that I passed the test of cooking the mumu and other womanhood attributes and skills. It was an overwhelming and amazing feeling that i felt that day. When I was congratulated at my initiation ceremony by my mother’s people, i couldn’t help my tears because it portrayed the identity of a real Nakanai woman.

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