Yumi karim lek

By Lynette Kerenga

An entry in the Cleland Award for Heritage Literature

Aiiii yaaa wuuuu…
The chanting of my mamas’ echoes
Through the fertile wahgi valley
Up and down the dirty wara wahgi
The kundu drums beat
THOONG! THOONG!
The singsing has started. People are still coming; the neighboring villages and tribes
The singsing echoes to the beat of the famous kundu drums for some time
The glorious tumbo and mek swishes towards the steps of the dancers
“Ol whiteman sa tok The Bird Of Paradise headdress”, my bubus would say

The singsing continues as one of
The uncles grabs a kundu drum off a girl in the singsing group
The handsome warrior from the other tribe grabs a spear off the other girl in the singsing group
The hardworking girl everyone’s been talking about grabs a kundu off the chief’s son.
Slowly the singsing goes down and everyone gets together in front of the big house kunai

“Ladies first”, as the westerners would say
The girls make their way into the big house kunai
Hot, yellow and orange blazing flames from the burning woods in the middle, lits up the kunai house.
The cool mountain breeze surrounds the air outside, as everyone’s eagerly waiting to go inside
The boys not far behind, find a seat between each girl
Everyone’s excited, but with respect and full of humility, they each sat around the fire

Aiii yaaaa wuuu…..
The karim lek is about to start
Arm in arm in a circle around the glowing orange flames.
The karim lek singsing begins, louder and louder they sang
Heads turning sideways, back and forth
So flawlessly, everyone together

The day creatures are annoyed
Can’t have a good night sleep
The bats, owls and night creatures peered behind trees and tall grasses

Red and yellow,
Yes! My favourite colour
Everyone’s face has a bit of it
All natural pigments, from the tolmon tree’s fruits for red and the bungor roots for yellow
The blazing flame reflects the shiny, oily pig grease on their perfect melanin skin texture from head to toe
Their feet covered in mal-bang (red dirt)
The night creatures gazed in amazement, some even frightened

The night is still young
A full moon
The sky’s clear
The Southern Cross stars shines brighter
The singsing echoes
Through the wahgi valley and its dense forest
Up and down the mighty wara wahgi
The wahgi besta and tilapia fish must have multiplied
I bet you, the mythical creatures of wara wahgi and our ancestors are smiling with pride.

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