Soukuru

By Liggie Kare

An entry in the Cleland Award for Heritage Literature

The soukuru are the invisible bush people of the Gulf province. They’re traditional environmental conservationists. They are like dwarfs; short, unselfish, full of good or bad luck depending on the type of person you are… if you get to see them. They protect the bush and its riches: gold, oil and gas, secret places, plants and animals.

I wrote about them because I was thinking about the new LNG project plant that might be set up right in my village and how it would naturally disturb the people and the environment. If the soukuru can, I believe they might wreak havoc onto the “newcomers” and their property. If the right steps are followed, like I wrote “ask from the bush, they will hear you”, some form of symbiosis can be maintained. But trust, you will not hear from the soukuru again.


Over screaming fires under the Karama moonlit night

Small children gather to hear of the soukuru

Their ears tuned in to its fullest

To the words escaping the buai-stained lips of the storyteller

Just a few meters away, the waves create a soundtrack

Washing to the shore the jellyfish caught in the passing tempest beyond the horizon

Moving air blow through fallen coconut leaves

The whistling grasses catch it and come alive

The warming fire effortlessly fights against the wind

Protecting the children from the cool

The night sand, solar charged from the day

In support of the fire, radiates heat for children’s feet

Strong energy of curiosity seep through their pores

Keenly awaiting

The story teller pretends to not notice their restlessness

And shaves the skin of her face before chewing, as is her habit

She breaks the nut open and chews on the flesh inside

Betel nut to mouth

Mustard to crushed shell lime

One spit

She begins


Mere kekae, ma o metaka avapa

Soukuru mija

Erero levi eova, ere ove everapi meove

Ere mea kiva karu, karu hea lasoka meove

Ere mere kekae lori leivija karu

Ah hea karu ma meove; ere pisoso aiverovija karu

Soa hea ere moe fisii lei meovija, erero karu hea eovove

La ere aro seseova soa heaove

Ah seo or haroka

Karu meta ro, ere kiva leive

Ae ere aro etau ekakapo aiverai

Soa ekapo leitija ere aro aupaea

Erero ere ija, muri, or oil eaeai oti satiriora

Ah tapora loroija,

Ah ekoroa metameta laeovija

Levi paea

Ah ijakea laeovija

Levi paea

Erero omeai tija

Ija a tei forera

Hasu sisi aufa tavi avapove

Soukuru avapa tija, are ija meta kofa aro aiverai


Children, listen to me well

The soukuru

Small build, invisible people of the bush

Land protectors, some say

Baby stealers, others say

Fortune granters, few say

Only those allowed to see them, will see

But they will test you

Your character

Bad person, they hurt or kill you

They give you bad luck

Good person, they protect you

Give you pigs, gold, oil form the land – from its source

You go to hunt

You see a big snake

Do not kill it yet

You see a big pig

Do not kill it yet

Ask for permission from the bush

Tell them you want to eat pork tonight

The bush listens

The soukuru will hear you and send you the best pig

Eyes wide and filled with awe

The children whisper amongst themselves

For young eyes, so pure and so innocent

Are opened

They listen to the soukuru woman

Just as she came for story

She is gone

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Love this❤

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