Photo Caption: Solomon, a Master Carver a work

Source: "Red Soil"

Experts, Consultants, Professors, Doctors etc. People who are recognized and given titles as such, because they have spent years of reading and writing non-stop about something, but what about when they become ‘those’ about a person(s) way of life? Is that justifiable?

Most people back in the villages, away from the harshness of towns and cities, the 80 percent, are not fond of the idea of other people being ‘experts’ of things in Papua New Guinea, and they are quite pissed off especially when it comes to their cultures and traditions. They say this is because they’ve realized that most of these ‘experts, consultants, professors or doctors’ are Foreigners. ‘How can, and why should a Foreigner be an expert of our culture and traditions?’ is what they asking.

Mel Ware, one of the many wise men of the Bosmun village of Ramu in the Madang Province said, a plant has a connection with several other plants, who each have connections to several animals and humans as food, medicine etc, and that is just a part of what makes up our culture and traditions. He said no one person in this Universe should say he or she is an expert of an ant, unless if they spend a part of their lifetime as one. Mel said no matter how small the ant is, you can only know what’s visible and obvious to you, and his culture is everything including the ant that sustained his people’s existence in time.

“It frustrates me whenever I hear about someone being the ‘Consultant’ of something that he or she does not do back in his/her country, but just because he/she has just studied it, we the people who have actually lived with and used these things have to consult them? These ‘Consultants’ Con and Insult me,” he said.

From the New Ireland Province, the last fully skilled ‘Shark Caller’ alive in his village, Eliuda Toxok said, he’s witnessed foreigners flying in from as far as the Middle East, America, Australia and more, just to visit his little village Messy and prove with their own eyes that his people really do mess with the sharks.

“Despite the time they (foreigners) spent listening to our stories of how we do it, they can never do it, because we only say what we should say and not what we should not say. That does not make either them or us experts, because as humans, we are all still learning and are bound to make mistakes,” he said.

In Jimi-Molu, a village situated in one of the most rugged terrains of Jiwaka in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, lives Gabriel Kenzinga.

Gabriel said, “The creator chose me and my people to live with the shadow of these mountains. You can not be someone from the coastal areas, who have spent most of your life living by the sea, come here and tell me you are an expert of my culture, the way I live. Far worse, you cannot be a foreigner who’s never been to my village that’s only accessible by foot after climbing several steep hills and arriving at nightfall, say you are an expert of my culture, the way I live or should live, NEVER!”

In the East Sepik Province is Solomon, a master carver in his eighties, getting old but still carving. Solomon said, to carve, one must know and understand the different types of trees, so as to know how to handle them the way they should be, in order to create a Master piece. A Master piece it has to be, in order to beat time and exist long enough to tell the stories that must be told to our generations to come, and to maintain our unique existence in this earth.

“A foreigner can never be an expert if he or she does not understand anything like that, because one has to care for the well being of a tree, which depends on other organisms who depend on other organisms, before a tree becomes a tree and we make carvings out of it. The reason why we chose certain trees and the reason why we chose wood to carve on are totally different stories, but still interconnected. You have to be an expert in everything before you say you’re an expert in something, because believe it or not, they are all interconnected. In other words, you have to be God to call yourself an expert of someone’s culture and traditions,” he said.