Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Hiri

A little more about Papua New Guinea.

In the years of my first stint as a teacher in PNG, I was Teacher in Charge of a primary school in the Gulf of Papua.  The Gulf is a swampy area with lots of sago palms from which sago (not as we know it) was produced and bundled for sale in Port Moresby.   It was transported by coastal traders.    

In times past....long past, it was part of a trading journey by the Motu people from around what came to be know as Port Moresby.  The Motu were great pot makers, having abundant clay deposits and an annual journey by Motuans in large Lakatoi before the Laurabada (South East winds) exchanged pots for bundles of sago with the people of the Gulf.   The Lakatoi could not easily ‘tack’ across the wind and crews had to wait until they could run back home in front of the Lahara (North West winds).    When I was at Arehava in the early 1960s, villagers were still using Motuan clay pots for cooking.   I imagine aluminium pots now rule.

That trading journey was called The Hiri and because the Lakatoi  had to wait for the change of season and the arrival of the Lahara, the Gulf people learned to speak a simplified version of Motu, later called Hiri Motu.  Hiri Motu became one of the two Lingua Franca in Papua New Guinea, the other one was Tok Pisin (talk pidgin).  Motu spread throughout Papua mainly through its use by the PNG Constabulary and eventually was renamed Police Motu.  

Picture of a Lakatoi from the 1920s

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