Bruno Imbui passed away today. He was born to Tangandai Clan, in Yimas Village, East Sepik Province, sometime just prior to the War. The last of his generation to leave us, we want to honor his life with this acknowledgement of a long and successful life. He has worked with us on the Karawari Cave Arts Project since the beginning, and his son Edward is one of our principal team members. His daughter Maria is a local hero, as she returned from Teacher's College in the nineties to set up the only school for miles and miles around to teach all the children of the Arafundi, including the cave dwelling Penale high upriver. In a classic twist, the Board of Education finally recognized and consecrated her school at Yimas 1 only to transfer her out to a more senior position on the Keram River. So the school was abandoned.
In the eighties Bruno was an assistant to Paul Gorecki and Rhys Jones, the first archeologists and Europeans to come visit the Karawari caves---and the first to record their stencils, in a submission to make them National Cultural Heritage. Ironically, we set out with their reports from a dozen or so caves when our own efforts to find and photograph the caves began, almost 20 years later. That was when we cavalierly thought there might be a total of 25 or 30 caves; and eight years later we now there are more than ten times this number.
Thanks for the work of Paul Gorecki in 2014, along with Jennifer Gabriel and Peter Hitchcock, as advisors to the World Heritage Committee for PNG, the entire cave art area has been included in the country's 'Tentative Listings' for World Heritage. This is a huge milestone that could never have been achieved without the work of people like Bruno, who guided Gorecki and Jones in the eighties, and gave us a trove of clan stories in the early 2000's. Below are some of Paul Gorecki's early photos of Bruno and his wife, Margaret, and more recent shots taken by Susan Salinger on a visit in 2006.
Several years ago one of our Karawari Cave Arts ethnographers, Bernard Yake, recorded a few of Bruno's clan stories, and transcribed them to English. Here we offer two of them.
Long time ago, there lived a man and his name was Waiagara Kalanapi. The name Waiagara Kalanapi means ‘Father of the Headwater’ where Waiagara refers to father and Kalanapi is the name of the creek. The ancestor’s real name was Chambia Kalanapi. Our hausboi originated on one of my mountains called Kalapismeri. The hausboi had two names; Kalapis Yambanman and Kokop Yambanman. Tangandai is the name of my clan and the name means fence. I grew up in the hausboi before going to Yimas. Ok Kambunakon and Tat were the first couple who came to Yimas and secured the land in here. Once a son of Edma and grandson to Kambunakon and Tat, was shooting lizards around in the village with his ‘nok kining’ (bow and arrows). The boy accidently shot one of his spears (noks) into the haus tambaran or the hausboi. He then followed the spear into the hausboi and asked some of the boys who were inside that house if they had seen his nokand asked them to return it. The boy said to the boys inside, what if I see a tambaran (spirit). The boys inside told him to close his eyes when entering the house and he obeyed. As soon as he got in, the boys inside grabbed him and threaded his lips. The boy’s name is Tukwaditmeli. His mouth was threaded using the bone of a flying fox. After Tukwaditmeli’s mouth was shut, the boys took him to a thick grassland area and killed him. When he was dead, the boys chopped his body into pieces, shared them amongst themselves, wrapped the chops in the palm-leaf-stalks and brought them home. When the boys arrived, they told Tambui, Tudwakimeli’s elder sister to fetch water and prepare some dry coconuts. They told her that they brought a wild pig that they had killed at the wangai(kunai grass) close to Tamblakmali, (the former name of Yimas village).
Was the boy (Tukwaditmeli) killed for any reason?
The boys killed him because his spear went inside the haus tambaran. It is very strict and unlawful for children, unauthorised personnel, sticks and stones to be thrown or go in there.
While the flesh was cooking in a traditional clay pot, the boys told the girl to fetch some sago from her house. But the girl told them that their house had no sago so her parents went to make some new sago. One of the old man in there insisted that she go to check their sago basket after he made some magic spells to refill the sago basket. When Tambuiwent and saw that, she came back with the sago and told the men that her parents must have tricked Tukwaditmeli and her. When everything was cooked, the men told the girl to go and bring her plate for her food to be served. When she did, they put the hand (not the whole arm) of her brother at the bottom of the plate and covered it with sago and water. When Tambui received her plate, she could not see a meat so she asked the boys, where is my meat? The boys told her to check the bottom of her plate. When she did, she saw a hand and realised from a knot on the finger made by their mother from a shoot of a sago palm for each of them. She grabbed her plate and smashed it in front of the men. She thought, what best do I do? She quickly climbed a betel nut tree and harvested some nuts and then got some mustard and put them altogether. She ran to her father’s bag and saw the traditional ointment, climbed the roof of the house and started rubbing it all over her body. In her small billum were some kina shells, so she broke them into pieces and used one of those piece to cut through her belly/abdomen, broke her legs and cut her arms. In those cut parts of her body, she fit in some bird feathers. Tambui saw that she could now be able to fly so she flew to a place called Kanukisalimio, rested for a while there and then flew to another place called Tambluminum. From there she flew to Kandamidumun, on the mountain. From that mountain, she flew to a kasten (canoe place) in Nambuwatakarai. When she arrived there, she could hear her parents talk from where they were making sago, so she changed into a baby bird, flew to them and sat on a sago leaf close to them. When Tambui’s mother saw the bird, she told her husband to get the bird so that she wanted to cook it and eat it. Her husband quickly climbed the sago tree to get the baby bird. But the bird jumped down and changed its form into human again and told them about everything that happened at home. The parents packed their things and went home; the girl flew and her parents paddled home in their canoe. Tambui arrived home early, changed her form into a human again and waited for her parents to arrive. When they arrived, the girl told her father that she had prepared everything for him to fight, like the betel nut, mustard, bow, arrows and sticks. So she told him to chew the betel nut first and then put up a fight. The father chewed the first betel nut and spit it out; he also chewed the second betel nut and did the same. While the third one was in his mouth, he grabbed his weapons, walked to the doorway of the haus tambaran and started shooting the arrows inside. When the boys inside saw the arrows flying in, they decided to escape from the house through an hole after removing the main bearer of the house that was erected from the ground up to the ceiling. After coming out, the boys said this in their tokples, ‘wogai yebo, wakan yebo’,meaning where do we go now. The boys then decided to run away, through the grassland and arrived at Imanmeri. When they were running, one of the men from Imanmeri saw them and asked them why they were running and they told him that they had killed Tukwaditmeli and that his father wanted to kill them. When the man heard them say that, he secretly took the boys to his haus tambaran and kept them there. When night fell, he took some of the boys and left them at Wambrumas. Some of the boys changed their form and went inside some bamboos at Wambrumas to live in there. One day an Awim man went and cut the bamboos in which the boys in the bee form were living. To the man’s surprise, he saw the bees fly out and started stinging him. After that the boys changed form to be human again and they told the man that that bamboo was a home to them and he was wrong to cut it. When the man heard that, he took them to Awim, put them all in his haus tambaran and took care of them.
The Legend of How Men Arrived at Yimas
Tat, Kambunoken and Takisanblakmeli were males who lived in a cave on a hanging land. One morning the three of them came out of their stone cave and were making fire to cook. Yangaiman, a man from Imanmeri, came out that morning and saw the smoke of the fire rise on a place that just hanged on the rope. That place had the same kind of vegetation or environment as the one below. Yangaiman ran to the canoe place, got his canoe and paddled across the lake to the hanging land, searched everywhere and could not find them so he returned home. The three of them saw him first while he was paddling on the lake towards them so they ran away into the cave and shut the entrance with a stone. Yangaiman saw the same thing happen again on the hanging land one morning; smoke arose. He got his canoe and paddled to see whoever the person was, but the same thing happened. The three of them saw him and escaped into the cave and hid in there. The Imanmeri man paddled home again. In the night, Yangaiman planned to go there in the early hours of the morning while it was still dark. Before dawn, he paddled to the hanging land, hid the canoe and he himself stood on a spot where he could spy who the person was. As the day broke, Yangaiman saw the three men come out of the stone cave and he shouted to them that he had seen them already. He told them also that he went there two times to find you but you ran away and hid from me. The three men then invited him to come so they all could cook and eat together. After eating, Yangaiman told them that he wanted to join them on the hanging land. The three men agreed and showed him his piece of land to build his house and make gardens. Yangaiman returned to Imanmmeri and told his people that he was leaving them and was going to live on another land. He packed his things into the canoe and went away. He built his house and lived with them. On that hanging land where Yangaiman went to join them, they enjoyed their companion and lived happily.
One day a man by the name of Kikai saw that hanging land and cut the ropes on which the land was hanging, and the hanging land fell to the ground. When it fell, the land grew much bigger (it extended in its size). When Tat, Kambunoken, Takisanblakmeli and Yangaiman saw that the land grew big, they sent messages by shouting everywhere and invited everyone to go and stay with them because the land was so big. Upon hearing the invitation, people started to go in there from Waiagara, Kabriman and Sepik River to live there.
I think that is all I have to tell.
Thank you Bruno for your time