Wanang [iii] – The Opening

27 05 2010

The day of the opening was upon us. A small grandstand had been specially built and decorated for this occasion – you can see it under the welcome banner (which should read ’50 hectare plot’ by the way) in the background.

The Opening Ribbons

The plan was that the special peopled helicopter would land on the football pitch and they would be welcomed by dancers. Then these guys…

Simbai Men

… would spring forward aggressively with their bows & arrows and threaten to kill the guests. However, the way they were prancing around to a bit of light reggae pre-landing led me to believe they would not be able to frighten a small cat with a nerve disorder. They were very funny though.

School assembly

The kids looked great in their school uniforms and they had an assembly that morning during which the PNG & Madang Province flags were raised while they sung the National Anthem under the stern gaze of their headmaster.

An expectant village (+ Bridget)

Part of the village await the ‘copter landing. Other parts of the village await as well, but they’re not in the picture.

The welcome committee

I think I’m right in saying this was the first ever helicopter landing at Wanang! It went without a hitch (well it didn’t crash), having circled a couple of times, and it was quite impressive to see it come in over the tall trees.

The Frightening

Then, quick as eels, the Simbai warriers attacked! This is how it should’ve looked but in the event, there were so many people crowded round I couldn’t get a decent picture. Anyway, the guests seemed to enjoy being threatened, so all was good.

Bill Rothery (CEO of Swire) is greeted

The guests made their way to the grandstand up the ‘red carpet’ lined with school kids and villagers in traditional dress. On the way they were presented with a bilum each (traditional hand-made shoulder bag). Finally in the grandstand, there were several more presentations. At this point, the sun was threatening to take my skin off, so I retreated to the shady trees behind.

Um... men in bags

The ‘copter then made two trips to Wanang iii (site of the new station, 50 ha plot, and normally a punishing 15km walk through hot, undulating jungle). Meanwhile, quite bizarrely, some men dressed in bags were made to dance to music while trying not to fall over.

Gifts of pigs and rice

Traditionally, on important occasions such as marriage, pigs are gifted to neigbouring tribes. This time the pigs, along with bales of rice, were distributed to other village clans. The guests were then returned to Wanang i (as it’s known). By now, helicopter landings were so passé that some refused to watch, citing excessive air-borne dirt as the reason!

Wanang Conservation School

There followed a quick tour of the school classrooms and several speeches from Bill, Vojta & George, and then that was it. The helicopter departed for the final time, we prepared to walk out to the broken bridge for pick-up, and the villagers could return to normality. Before that, though, they were treated to a slapstick drama starring the Simbai who delighted the crowd with their innuendo and bare bottom scratching. Judging by the squeals of laughter from kids and adults alike, they really loved it, which made me think they would probably appreciate Benny Hill!

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5 responses

27 05 2010
Les

Hi Phil, looks as though it was quite a day out for the village! The men in bags are very Pythonesque! Great pictures, keep them coming. Could not quite work it out what Squires are sponsoring, presumably your project/the research centre? No ill effects from the Betel nuts then..? Is your location quite high up and hence cooler or is it hot and sticky?

Hope the project is going well and that you are enjoying it. Any wild life pics yet?

Cheers, Les
P.S. Off back to Otley next week for a month, looking forward to seeing all and sundry.

27 05 2010
Tiddly Widdly

Sounds like an average Saturday night in the Junc!

28 05 2010
puppriss

@Les – They sponsored a new field station (not photographed) and hopefully will provide ongoing support for the project. Wanang is lowlands ~150m, very hot & sticky

28 05 2010
wozzer

What a momentous day. All sounds very exciting especially for the villagers and school children. I loved the men in bags and threatening warriors. Not so keen on the dead pigs – did you get the chance to taste them? My congrats. to all at Wanang for a project well and truly launched. Otley market will seem very dull after this.

Love, wozzer.

29 05 2010
Mum

I really enjoyed reading all the goings on. Very interesting and very funny especially the men in bags, they should be at every party!
Hope you had some ‘after sun’ to plaster on!
xx

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