Sometimes living in PNG has retail benefits. The skies opened up today and delivered the most beautiful watermelon costume any 4 year old could hope for to Papindo’s new two-story shop in Madang (where entire whole rows are devoted to children’s underpants and the supermarket shelves are filled with yeast and salt ). So this is what she will be wearing for her first day of school:
Josh Mareveka, our trusted Karawari cave arts team leader, graduated from Divine Word today in Phsyiotherapy, and we were all there, including his big sister and sponsor, Jill, from Ambunti, to cheer him on. Our company also awarded the Joe Rainbubu Prize in the Dept of PNG Studies again, although the recipient this year, Ignatius Hamal, is already in London on a graduate scholarship. Im trying to figure out what our award would mean to him in pounds now, and Im guessing a couple of good meals with friends is about all. Apart from the fact that a certain Minister of Education could use a speed reading course, the ceremony went very well, and the four hours passed like three and a half. With a musak loop courtesy Madang Resort Hotel. And some very energetic Manus dancers---w/a couple of lead men in bike shorts I'd be happy to see dance again. Graduations should be run like Last Comic Standing, with guest speaker finalists presenting their best bullet point monologues, to be judged by a row of multicolored mortar and robed Dept Heads who are allowed, for the day, to smile. The highlight, I should say, was Governor Sir Arnold waxing Rev King with his 'I had a dream' that all the children of PNG would have free primary ed!..I had a dream that every community would have a staffed school! etc And the Minister for Ed had his own dream that all high school students with a GPA of 1.6 and higher (dropping the floor on current qualifications) would be eligible for government scholarships, which caused me to have a nightmare about DWU graduates with D+ averages moving on to public admnistration.....Yes it was a great day for hair, makeup, caps and gowns---absolutely wonderful. I wore heels. Baby Nancy and Nelly both wore wonderful costume jewelry in her hair which I'd received from my ex husband the crazy Teutonic dominatrix for Christmas, no doubt purchased in some dash through Goodwill and beautifully boxed up for the trip around the globe to PNG. (Yes, some people still know how to gift: in tribute, he is pictured twice here, once in youthful glory, again as Kitchen Tsar.) The female valedictorian was Manus and in full traditional bilas (goodonner!) and another beautiful young woman who received a Diploma in full highlands regalia, including cuscus hat and hornbill necklace, was being described by Brother Andrew Simpson behind me and (as far as I could overhear) seems a doubly special grad for stepping back after her Diploma, rather than going for the Degree, so that a younger brother could afford school fees.
Also included here are totally gratuitious shots of the Prima Grandchild Asaluta, Baby Nancy, confirming why we have been waiting with mixed emotions for her return from the village. Just kidding. We're happy she's back wetting the beds.
Joyce came home today from Aitape. She's been away since the first season of MacLeod's Daughters and knows nothing about the OC. So much to see, so little time. But first, we broke out the red lipstick just to see how fabulous Madonna might look, and took the chance to chase Leonard around with our lips puckered. Let's not kid ourselves, he's 12 and loved every minute of it. Tomorrow is international women's day, and we are a female dominated house (at least this week). Baby Nancy arrives home from Sepik tomorrow, to complete the draft. It is a matrilineal matriarch of moi, where the kandare, my Manus brother, still refuses to hang ladies knickers on the line. Its a kastom thing, he says, throwing up his hands. I get alittle ticked and yell, I can feed you, house you, and buy AAA batteries for your MP player, but you can't hang my bras on the line??? Alittle like Archbishop of Canterbury on Sharia law: feminist men always come down on the 'custom' line if it suits them. The Archbishops says, in all earnestness, that sharia law is currently being practiced in the UK so we really must acknowledge this and work towards a plural state. Hello? Alittle like saying, Here's comes a tsunami, maybe we should think about becoming a marine park. In that precarious 21st century battle betwen kastom and gender, which so often separates the anthropologists from the humanitarians (I agree), it's now most timely to come down on cultural pluralism in a global age side. What happened to us women---aren't we 51% pf the global population? How did we trumped by a hackneyed ill-defined concept of 'traditionalism' when most of the last 5 decades have been spent describing cultural syncretism and arguing that we can pick and chose the elements of modernity? Reminds me of the arguments for Islam in the highlands, where men say the gender hierarchy is so much more appropriate than Christianity's notions of parity (i.e. after fifty years of Christianity's gender divisions working their subtle magic in kastom, we're now ready for Islam). Ive been a guest on 100 FM twice this week for Renagi Taukarai's women's hour ---she's had some brilliant guests, not the least Brother Michael today who, like me, got the giggles when some of the deadpan speak got too plodding, especially about pornography, high class hooking and ladies charging more (or less, we couldnt figure out) for bigger male appendages. (Yet more evidence to be used against me in the hell-purgatory trials ahead). But today our earnest lead guest was a well meaning Simbuman who works with sex workers and children at risk, but who, during our tribute hour to international womens day, couldnt stop talking about the new forms of steam men are drinking, the new forms of pornography being produced, and how the little love gifts of buai, chicken and chips, a hotel weekend, school fees and ever increasingy expensive returns for sex are the new and most insidious form of prostitution. Eventually Renagi asked me what possible solution there might be to this terrible trend, and I butted in to say if women across PNG no longer had to pay the exorbitant school fees they still need to (after three deacdes of political promises to make education free) we wouldnt be talking about prostitution. The highlands guy knotted his brow like the concept didnt figger. Neither did he buy my brief description of Holly Wardlow's work in the SHP, 'Wayward Women,' describing sex work as a means of reclaiming control over one's sexuality. Then I talked about how men have such a free pass in PG for rape and other violent acts because they're considered not responsible for their behavior if a substance or nonmaterial force has taken control of them. I was sorcelled, I had to....She was too beautiful...I drank too much and needed to rape (verbatim repeat of what he called a 'justifcation' for rape in his 'studies' of bad behavior). When I went on about highlands gender ideas, in particular, and even legitimized my own perspective as a woman who had been raped, he could be seen, visibly, to take offense. I had to sep back and stroke him to continue the discussion. Much like the Chinese restaurant dinner I had during the gun summit in Goroka two years ago, when a very visibly PC politician, someone considered a progressive MP, took offense because I didnt want to sit next to him at dinner (didnt even know the man), and, to the stunned silence of the table, ordered me back to the hotel rather than allow me to sit anywhere. Women's Day? Yea, let's celebrate this by asking men whether we're allowed to speak about it.
Theatre is back! We as Ant hropologists of Oceania, always cresting the trend, are happy to bring back the theatrical classic, Derek and Margaret : the Musical, based (loosely) on the life and times of anthropologist Derek Freeman who dediated his academic career to the besmirching of Margaret Mead's. You will recall the hammy hostrionics of the eighties, when we learned that Derek had secured the warbled remembrances of octogenarian Samoans who, as teenagers, laughed, gossiped, played string figure games and, most crucially, HOAXED young Margaret into believing they were sexually active (and how cruel we felt this to be, especially after seeing those shots of young Madge all kitted out in tapa cloth and tube top---you have to admit, she met them halfway); when we learned that Madge was actually two-timing them with dishy Samoan boys; when we further learned that Derek's affectations and nail filing and document shredding were only matched by Margaret's Sappho leanings, leading us to wonder (in the spirit of all this) who was really the injured party?/ Who was hoaxing whom?; and when we looked back on that gilded age of early 20th C anthropologist when men were men, women were women, and a bottle of Jack Daniel's in the right tent at the right time could secure tenure, fame and a dubious reputation for all time.
Accordingly we have placed an open casting call for the following characters. Your job is to match the head shot with the role... We should note that suggestions have already been made regarding the choreography of Sweeney Todd and the type casting of the eternally seductive Marlene Deitrich (who, Bryant Allen has noted, know one or two things about cannibals). Remember: it is a musical---high kicks and headdresses and jazz pants.
Marilyn Strathern (a walk on)