Posts Categorized: Heritage & culture

Hipolasa – Traditional marriage in Haku

By Maryanne Hanette


Marriage is the last step of match making of the husband and wife and sometimes occurs when the family of the man agrees a woman they think best matches their son and make arrangements. In the past this practice was done to settle conflicts, maintain the ownership over land and to maintain family ties.

Traditionally for their marriage to be accepted and considered valid they have to go through certain process.

Match making is traditionally the first step and the current generation exercises their own choice, which must then be permitted by the village elders or the clans.

The next step they take is the hipolasa, which simply means ‘to bring’ in the Haku language. This is done if the decision is agreed and accepted by the chiefs of both clans.

During the process of hipolasa the woman is dressed traditionally upon the advice of the elderly women. The woman’s clan bring together baskets of kaukau, taro, banana and bales of rice.

When the preparation is done they then bring the woman to the man’s house. The bride is accompanied by an elderly woman to the man’s house and from there the woman is then welcomed by an elderly chief woman from the groom’s family.

Betel nut is distributed for everyone to chew as a traditional means of welcoming one another and then everyone eats the food the man’s clans had prepared. Towards the end there is an exchange of the foods that each clan prepared.

At the end of the day the woman stays with the man and his family or clan while her clan returns home bringing with them the food and money the man’s clans has given them as means of appreciation for bringing the woman to her husband.

This custom is slowly fading and today many people either do not know or do not practice the tradition. This is witnessed by the way in which the younger generations choose their spouses. Most of them they choose their partners at their own will and village elders or chiefs have no right to say anything.

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Mintung Nkaitu – Child naming custom in Buin

By Pauline Karalus


In Buin, the tradition of naming a child when it is born is sacred and holds significance in the society.

Names passed onto children at birth reflect the power and position of the name giver in the community. The more names you get passed onto children the more significance you have in the community.

Mintung Nkaitu is a traditional ritual performed when the name giver and the child meet each other face to face.

During birth, the name giver sends gifts to the new born with money through messengers to let the child’s parents know that he has already passed down his or her name onto the child and that no others should come along to give him or her a name.

From that time and onwards, those two aren’t supposed to see each other face to face. When the child is carried around and the name giver is spotted around, he or she gets covered by an umbrella or blanket and taken out of sight.

820-mintung-nkaituPreparations for Mintung Nkaitu progress step by step as the years go by. The name giver has a number of pigs slayed during the ritual as they are responsible for providing food to everyone who attends the feast, thus has to be ready financially.

When the day comes for the ritual to take its course, both parties prepare food, slay a number of pigs and gets the food packed in baskets woven from coconut palm leaves.

The child can now be met officially by the name giver and is hidden inside a small decorated hut made from coconut leaves and other attractive bushes. Inside the hut, there is special food prepared for the child and the name giver to share and eat after official meeting of the two.

The road leading to the hut gets decorated by the villagers, which indirectly indicates to the name giver where to finally meet the child that received their name some years before.

Alongside the road, villagers with buckets of water or mud stand in a row as they wait for the name giver and their entourage and upon their approach, the people chant in their language and welcome them. Suddenly, before they could notice the buckets of water gets splashed on to them, but no one gets upset as it is part of the custom.

As soon as the name giver reaches the hut, the chief gives a little speech and an opening prayer is said. The name giver is then allowed to enter the hut and finally meet their name sake.

In the midst of hugging and shaking hands, the villagers quickly remove the walls of the little hut so everyone would observe their official meeting.

After that, they are left to eat from the same bowl of food that was prepared for them. The villagers get together in groups and get served food from baskets.

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Buin girl represents Bougainville at DBTI cultural show

By Pauline Karalus


My younger sister, Imelda Karalus from Buin, represented her region as Miss Bougainville at the Don Bosco Technical Institute (DBTI) cultural show, which was held in Port Moresby in July.

Hailing from one of the remote places in Buin, South Bougainville, Imelda Karalus brought great joy to the Karalus family when she was born on 10 of October 1994, the fourth child in the family.

As a toddler, just like many other kids, most of her days were spent with grandparents and we would regularly fight over toys and other things. As time went though we became inseparable, growing up together and she became the sister who would always volunteer and help out whenever I needed a hand.

She was better than me at everything we did together and the best part of life was that we both went to school together. I always scored lower grades than her, but I was always proud of her and would consult her whenever I needed help with homework.

This was unappealing to my parents, but they just had to accept it as time went by.

Imelda and I remained in the same class until our Dad passed away and we had to split classes, this was not what we wanted, but what our mum wanted and we never had a choice that time.

Presently, I’m in my fourth and final year of studies year at Divine Word University (DWU), while she is doing her third year at Don Bosco Technical Institute.

The conversations and humorous jokes via phone and social media sites close the gap between Madang and Port Moresby that separates us and fills the atmosphere with peace, love and entertainment.

Imelda is a cultural and social being who is heavily involved in social activities, both educational and spiritual. She updates me on any workshop she attends with details of how and when things got done.

Just recently she texted me saying she had volunteered to be Miss Bougainville representing the Bougainville students of DBTI during the cultural show.

In 2015, she contested and was crowned Miss Tumbuna after the judges finalised their scores and this year my sweet little sister was crowned Miss Tumbuna again.

I’m so proud of you Imelda Karalus, my best playmate since childhood days. I know you have the potential to explore unfamiliar regions in life and you are not afraid of heights. Keep it that way sister!

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Okunu – a celebration of life and survival in Buin

804-buin-bougainvilleBy Pauline Karalus

While many Bougainvillean customs and traditions of have vanished over time, one celebration of life and survival continues to be practiced in Buin, South Bougainville.

Buin locals are closely attached to customs and traditions governing their clans and their customary land in which their entire life depends on. With respect and the greater fear of punishment from Gods and Goddesses, strict obedience to rituals and customs practices continues up to this very day.

With the introduction of Christianity, many of these traditions, customs and beliefs have become viewed as in conflict with Christian beliefs. A large portion have been erased over time according to the direction of elderly clan chiefs, though the ones that remain are distinguished and closely attached to the people’s lives. Some of these traditions, however finally reached their era of extinction, because of a failure to have been passed down onto younger generations from the elderly tribespeople.

The Buin people still practice many of their customs and rituals with pride still, up to this day. Arranged marriages, rituals and initiations performed to signify reaching a certain stage of manhood or womanhood in life and many more others still exist up to today. In the Buin culture it is the elderly tribes’ people’s job to make sure they pass on necessary traditions to the ones capable of being charge before they get too old and die.

Okunu is a ritual performed after the survival of tragic accidents, where one survives death where its seems impossible. Examples of such tragic accidents include falling off trees whilst hunting, overcoming a period of unknown paralysis, surviving a long-term sickness or disease and even recovering from large wounds from fights or accidents.

As soon as the person show signs of recovery, a special piece of cloth gets tied around the wrist. In the ancient times, in substitute of the piece of cloth a large lengthy piece of rope woven from bush ropes gets tied around the neck and is worn around as a necklace until the day of the Okunu.

During the day of Okunu, the celebrated gets seated on a decorated platform where a leader from his or her clan gets to say a few words first and then upon the witness of everyone he cuts the rope or the piece of cloth responded to by whistling and screams of happiness and joy from the crowd.

This ritual symbolizes the joy of the relatives because that particular person is being allowed to spend some more time with their beloveds. Multiple pigs are slain and a feast is served to celebrate the victory of surviving tragic events. The person whom the Okunu feast is conducted sits decorated in traditional garments as relatives and friends stand in queues to shake hands and present their gifts.

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Bougainville’s unique house styles

By Gideon Davika


House building is one the skill that is abided by in the cultures and customs in Bougainville that young boys must possess as they grow up.

One typical style has high posts and the features of it will signify or differentiate it from many bush material family houses in the villages.

These houses are built are materials such as sawn timber or timber that is sharpened with knife from certain trees found in the forest.

The roofs are made from sago leaves with broom sticks removed from the spine of the leaf itself.


The walls are weaved in patterns from bamboo that has been smashed with small axes.

In the past, traditional houses were built in a simplest way from the materials available from the bush. Presently, houses can be constructed using the latest carpentry techniques that young Bougainvilleans attain from attending vocational schools or technical colleges.

They build stylish bush material houses which stand out in the communities and often combine traditional and modern methods of building houses.

Bougainville’s modern bush material houses are an attraction for many outside visitors to Bougainville.



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Uni students preserve Bougainville culture

By Anastasia Hagai


Bougainvillean women from all four regions perform a dance to the beat of the bamboo band at Divine Word University, Madang

Regardless of ethnicity and of the distance from home, Bougainvillean students at the Divine Word University in Madang unite in organised activities such as the recent Blaqueville Nite which was held on Saturday, 14 May 2016.

Blaqueville Nite is the annual fundraiser for the Christmas awareness that is carried out by groups of students from higher institutions within the Bougainville Youth Foundation – Madang chapter.

The students promoted their culture through performances ranging from boys and girls Solomons dance, bamboo band and kaur.

Face painting along with the sale of traditional dishes will also be on display during the upcoming Divine Word University Cultural show that will be held at the main campus here in Madang on the 20th of August and PNG week in September, which is an initiative by the student representative council to correspond with Independence celebrations that will be carried out throughout the country.


Bougainvillean students during such activities embrace their culture with the colourful grass-shirts which are normally made from wild banana bark that is cut and beaten with a wooden stick and scraped. It is later left out in the sun to dry and, depending on the heat of the sun, it may take one to two weeks. After the drying process it is gathered and woven.

Due to changes in the modern societies the colour of the grass shirts has changes from a plane white to assorted colours and is normally done by women from the starting stage to the finishing touches.

The elegant attires come to life during traditional dances which represent the ideas and experiences of Bougainvilleans.

The hand signals and movements demonstrate what is been sung in the songs so that it is more meaningful and easy for people to understand the morals and traditions that influences life away from home and back in Bougainville.

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Muc Pata – The tradition of mourning in Buin

By Pauline Karalus

Muc Pata is the name given to the ritual that is performed after the burial of dead people. This is the most common tradition still practiced by the people of Buin District.

When a certain clan member dies and is buried, the immediate relatives of that particular person are forbidden to have access to their gardens or even bush walks unless there is a Muc Pata conducted after a specified number of days of mourning and sympathizing for the loss of their beloved.

During the mourning period the gardens get covered by the bushes and food crops get spoilt by weather or the animals looking for feeding grounds to help themselves. In total silence the gardens await for their owners to come and get them cleaned as soon as their mourning period comes to its end.

It takes up to a maximum of three weeks for the immediate relatives to stay at home and mourn the loss. On the second or third week of mourning, villagers gather at a venue and set off in large groups to the bush or the rivers in search of protein.

Protein gathered during Muc Pata is brought to the immediate relatives place, cooked on large pots and distributed amongst the villagers.

Muc Pata has its governing rules that villagers have to go by accordingly. The proteins gathered have to be cooked when it is still daylight. It is believed that if the preparation of the meal is delayed and feasting takes place when it is dark then another person from the clan will die and thus it is the spirits way of communicating with them whether another death is nearby or not.

Failure to perform Muc Pata after death and burial also results in another death just a few weeks after. The governing principles of Muc Pata are never disobeyed as it is a belief that breaking any of these principles will always result in another death, which signifies the punishments of the spirits upon them.

Bougainvillean customs and traditions differ so much from the rest of the country. With the influx of western cultured it is feared that traditional customs will come to extinction and, indeed, some already have

A very large portion of these traditional beliefs and practices have been done away with either because they are against Christian faith or because they are not seen as fitting in with contemporary society. Most have reached their era of extinction because they have not been passed on by the elderly tribes’ people.

The Buin people of the southern region of Bougainville still practice most of their customs and rituals with pride. Arranged marriages, rituals and initiations performed to signify reaching a certain stage of manhood or womanhood in life and many more others still exist up to today. In the Buin culture it is the elderly tribes’ people’s job to make sure they pass on necessary traditions to the ones capable of being charge before they get too old and die.

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The origin of sing-sing

This legend which tells of the origin of sing-sing was recounted by Ernst Frizzi, a Professor from Munich, in his paper Ein Beitrag zur Ethnologie von Bougainville und Buka mit Spezieller Berucksichtung der Nasioi

Baitsinani and his wife Bari searched for fish in the sea. With them was Baitsinani’s brother, Tebu, who was deeply in love with his sister-in-law.

Baitsinani saw this and was very sad about it. He thought that it was not right.

While he fished the other two remained in the water and committed a hidden adultery. When the woman returned to her husband, he saw blood on her body and on his questioning Bari confessed to him.

Baitsinani now decided to follow his brother to avenge his unfaithfulness. For this purpose he asked his brother to accompany him on a canoe ride. Consenting, they paddled outside on the open sea.

When they were far away, Baitsinani took a coconut for refreshment. He split it with a knife and left one half of it fall into the water by mistake. Thereupon Tebu jumped in the water in order to retrieve it.

The betrayed husband quickly paddled away. But a fish swam to Tebu and spoke to him. “If you give me a piece of your coconut, I will help you return safely to the coast”.

When the first fish was tired, a second fish replaced him, which Tebu for its assistance also gave a piece of his nut to eat for provisions. A turtle took care of Tebu. Thus the animals of the sea often changed, and luckily Tebu reached land again.

He went to his mother, Murauna, who organized a great feast in honour of the fish from joy over the lucky rescue of her son. Many pigs were slaughtered and presented to the fish.

Afterwards the fish entertained, they grabbed their bamboo flutes to the surprise of the people and began to play on these strange flutes a really charming dance.

Thus the people became acquainted with flute playing and the dance, and this explains the staggering and nodding which distinguish this dance.

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The origin of the galip nut

The following tale was told to German ethnologist Professor Ernst Frizzi during his visit to Bougainville in 1911.

Damurei married Kiara, against the will of her spirit mother, Barabatsia.

Damurei, who loved her husband very much, warned him about her mother since she likes to kill men.

“We will dig a hole into which we will both fall if my mother wants to come around and kill you,” Damurei said to Kiara.

A few days later, when they had dug the hole, Barabatsia came crying from a distance for her daughter because she wanted her back again.

As she wouldn’t come voluntarily, Barabatsia went none other than to the house of her brother.

Using a ladder, she tried to climb into his dwelling. The ladder was fastened however only with a thin cord to the house. It broke and Barabatsia fell into a large pit below from which she couldn’t escape.

Now all the men came from the surrounding area and killed the wicked woman spirit. From her eye, as the legend says, grew the Galip Nut.

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The emergence the coconut

Previously published was a legend of the emergence of the coconut palm recorded by a German professor, Ernst Frizzi, in 1911 when he travelled to Bougainville on an ethnographic expedition.

The following legend, from a mission magazine called ‘Kreuz und Charitas’ (File 17. Volume No. 1, Page 7 1908), deals with the same subject but tells a different story of the coconut.

A mother, whose name was Sikouna, refused to prepare the daily meal for her two sons Komarara and Komakiki.

Crying, the sons flew into a violent rage and killed their mother.

After her death the sons heard the voice of their mother. She wanted her corpse to be burnt.

“Burn my body,” she said, “but before you do tear out my heart and lay it out on the earth, and on where it is placed, erect a fence.”

The sons followed their mother’s instructions and a tree appeared that had never been seen before from the heart of their mother.

They tried the leaves, but they were inedible.

The tree began to bloom, they tried those blooms, and they too were not very enjoyable.

In place of the blooms small nuts appeared.

“We want to leave them until they became larger,” the boys said.

When they reached the size of a child’s head, they picked, opened them and found the inside filled with a liquid. They drank and found them very good-tasting and were very pleased.

The remaining nuts were left to hang, until they were fully matured and fell down. Again they opened one and found in it a good-tasting flesh.

They hid the nuts in the forest not knowing what they should call them.

Then a dog went past. He saw the nuts and said: “I want to eat these coconuts, if I could only break them open.”

“These are coconuts, coconuts!” the boys repeated.

The nuts grew into trees and carried fruits, which soon spread throughout the island.

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