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The Schoolboy and the Japanese Officer

The following story was told to me in 1976 by a Numbami man who was a noted traveler and storyteller whose nickname was “Samarai,” because he had once spent time there. (My late West Virginia uncle had also spent time as an Army cook on nearby Goodenough Island after spending time in Australia. He had a lot of respect for the Aussies, and he’d been in fistfights with more than a few of them.)

In this first, rough translation, I’ve tried to capture the storyteller’s idiom without presuming too much specialized knowledge on the part of my readers. We can be sure the story has “improved” over countless retellings, but it nevertheless conveys a third-party perspective on the Pacific War that is too rarely heard. For more local reactions to the Pacific War, consult the Australian-Japan Research Project for Australia and PNG, and the book Typhoon of War for Micronesia.

While were were in school [around March 1942], the Japanese came and took over Lae, took over the Bukaua coast [the south coast of the Huon Peninsula], all the way to Finschhafen. But we stayed there at school for another year. Then, okay, the Australians and Americans seemed to be planning to come back. Their number one patrol officer, Taylor, sent a letter saying, “Natives, don’t stay in your villages any more. Build huts in your hillside gardens and stay there. A big fight is coming.”

So here’s what we did. We people at Hopoi abandoned Hopoi. We took our school, our desks, and everything and set them up in the forest. We stayed at a place called “Apo.” We kept going to school and, okay, the Australians came from over on the Moresby side, they came all the way to Wau. And they came down that little trail and they and the Japanese fought each other over at Mubo and Komiatam [above Salamaua].

And they sent word to us Kembula [Paiawa], Numbami [Siboma], and Ya [Kela] villagers to go carry their cargo to Komiatam. And they did that and the fighting got harder. The Australian forces got bigger. And some Numbami went and carried cargo over at Salamaua. They went at night. They went there and the Australians came down and fired on the Japanese so the Numbami ran into the forest.

They ran into the forest and there was one guy named G. “G, where are you? We’re leaving!”

So, okay, they went and slept overnight and the next morning arrived at Buansing. And a Japanese bigman there named Nokomura [probably Nakamura], he heard the story so he came down and talked to me. He talked to me and I said, “Oh, that was my cousin, my real [cross-]cousin.”

So the Japanese guy said, “Really? Your cousin? Oh, your cousin has died. The Australians shot him dead.” And he spoke Japanese, and he said, “One man, bumbumbumbumbumbu, boi i dai.”

I said, “Oh, you’re talking bad talk.”

Then he said, “Tomorrow, you go to school until 12 o’clock, then come to me.” So I went to school until 12 o’clock and I went to him.

He gave me, dakine, a rifle, a gun. And he gave me, dakine, ten cartridges, ten rounds. Then he said, “I’d like for you to take this and go shoot a few birds and bring them back for me to eat.”

So, okay, I took it and I went. And he wrote out my pass. And there were bigmen with long swords the Japanese called “kempesi” [probably kempeitai, the dreaded military police]. One man, his name was Masuda [possibly Matsuda]. This man had gone to school over in Germany. And he really knew German well.

So I came by and he saw me, “You, where are you going with that gun?”

So I said, “Oh, a bigman gave it to me to shoot birds for him to eat.”

“Let me see your papers.”

So I showed him my papers and he said, “Okay, go.”

So I went and found a friend of mine. His name was Tudi. I said, “Hey, Tudi. A bigman gave me a gun and I haven’t shot a bird yet. Could we both go and you shoot?”


So we both went and stopped at an onzali tree and two hornbills were there. So he went and planted his knee and shot one and it fell down. So I was really happy and ran and got it. We kept going until he shot a cockatoo.

So after I thanked him, I said, “Give me the gun and I’ll see if I can shoot.”

So he gave it to me and we kept going until we saw some wala birds, and I said, “I’ll try to shoot. Shall I shoot or not?”

So, okay, I fired and I shot a wala bird to add to the others. So I said, “Okay, we have enough, so I’ll take it and go.”

So I tied the wings together and hung them over the gun and carried them back over to Buansing. I went and all the Japanese bigmen were sitting in a, dakine, committee. They were talking about the coming battles. They were sitting there talking and their bigman said, “Look, here comes my man,” and the guards saluted him. And I was invited in.

So I entered the building and the guard at the door said, “Ha!” When he said that I replied, “Ha!” And I bowed three times and he bowed three times.

After we finished, okay, I went up to the second guard and he went, “Ha!” And I said “Ha!” And I bowed three times and he bowed three times. Okay, then I walked on.

So then I went up to the man who stood at the steps up to the bigman. When he said, “Ha!” then I said, “Ha!” and we had both bowed the third time, I went up the steps.

I went up the ladder and the people who were sitting in the meeting, they stood up and went “Ha!” to me and I said “Ha!”, then I went up and they gave me a chair. I sat down.

And the bigman glanced at his cook. And, okay, he took smokes and opened a pack and passed them around until they were gone. Okay, then he struck his lighter and gave everyone a light, then we all sat down. We sat and sat, maybe a half-hour. Then he told his people, “Okay, the talk is over.”

So they all split up and went out leaving just him and me still sitting. We stayed sitting until he said, “I’ve already given you a blanket and a mosquito net. Here’s a knife. Here’s your lavalava. Over there are your bags of rice and dried bonito, two tins of meat, a tin of fish.”

I said, “Oh, you’ve given me so much. How will I carry it?”

He said, “Oh, it’s all right. Take it away.”

So I asked him, “You’ve given away so much. What does it mean?”

“Oh, there’s a reason. I guess I’ll tell you. After you leave, a ship will come tonight, a submarine will come and I’ll board it and go to Rabaul.”

I said, “Why are you going to do that?”

“Nothing. All us bigmen are going up to Rabaul because the bigmen and a whole lot of soldiers are at Rabaul. And these people, their job is to stay behind, and fight the Australians and Americans when they come, and destroy them, destroy them here. And us bigmen will be in Rabaul.”

“Oh, all right.”

Then he told me, he said, “You go get a good night’s sleep so that when you see the crack of dawn you’ll get up quickly.”

Listen to the fuller story in Numbami here:

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The Schoolboy and the Japanese Straggler

The following story was told to me in 1976 by a Numbami man who was a noted traveler and storyteller whose nickname was “Samarai,” because he had once spent time there.

In this rough translation, I’ve tried to capture the storyteller’s idiom without presuming too much specialized knowledge on the part of my readers. We can be sure the story has “improved” over countless retellings, but it nevertheless conveys a third-party perspective on the Pacific War that is too rarely heard. For more local reactions to the Pacific War in Papua New Guina, consult the Australian-Japan Research Project.

We went and slept until the first crack of dawn when it was my time to sound reveille. So I went and struck the, dakine, slitgong: “Kuing, kuing, kuing, kuing, kuing.” So then the boys woke up and bathed and washed their faces. When they finished, okay, the bell rang.

The bell rang and all the people went to school and were singing. As soon as they finished, I ran right up behind the school and stood atop a rock.

When I looked out, I could see as far as the Huon Gulf and, okay, it was completely dark.

I said, “Hey guys, come look at something. The boys said, “What is it?”

“Come look!” And when they looked, “Guys, let’s scatter!”

Okay, they went and gathered up their things and fled into the forest. Before we left, the guns started sounding, “Bum, bum, bum.” They were firing at the soldiers at Singkau and Kabwum and Lae and Salamaua. You could see fire and smoke all over the place.

Okay, all the Bukawa and Hopoi people went into the forest. I ran to my house and roasted some taro cakes under a tree. I planned to take two to eat in the forest.

I was doing that and our teacher Gidisai and his wife and kids came up. And just then a crazy Japanese man came up. He had no gun, no knife, just walking around empty-handed.

“E, Kapten!”

So I said, “What?”

“E, Kapten, Japan boi hangre, ya.”

“Oh, I don’t have any food.”

“A, banana sabis [= ‘free’], ya? Japan boi hangre, ya.”

The teacher said, “Are you crazy or what? You go fight!”

“O, nogat [= ‘no’], ya. Japan boi sik na hangre, ya.”

“Oh.” I heard that so I stayed and thought, “Oh, if he stays there, the guns will kill our teacher for sure.” So I stood by and didn’t go into the forest.

I was standing there waiting and, suddenly, “Japan boi, yu mekim wanem [= ‘you do what’]?”

“Boi, hangre, a, imo [= ‘tuber’] sabis, ya? Imo sabis?”

“O, imo planti planti istap faia [= ‘are on the fire’]. Olgeta sabis [= ‘all free’]! Kam kaikai [= ‘come eat’]!

He went and sat down and ate taro and I said to the teacher, “You all go quickly!”

So they ran way over into the forest and hid themselves in the rocks. And then I said, “Japan boi! Yu kaikai. Yu stap. Yu slip haus. Mi go.”


Okay. I took my things and ran into the forest.

Listen to the fuller story in Numbami here:

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Kulakula tinisi bani na (Work cooking food)

This account was told by a schoolteacher’s wife in her 50s, on 16 December 1976, in Siboma village, Morobe Province, PNG. Listen to it here:

Ewesika ndi kulakula ti-nisi bani na.
women their work they-boil food of
Women’s work cooking food.

Ewesika usouso aindi bani i-ye kapala woya-ma.
women white their food it-lie house ready-ly
White women, their food lies in a house ready.

Ti-ki bani i-ye kapala ti-baga bani na
they-put food it-lie house they-buy food of
They put food in a house for buying food [= food store]

wa ai ti-ambi goleyawa ti-wesa ti-ambuli bani i-ye kapala ti-baga bani na
and them they-hold money they-go they-buy food it-lie house they-buy food of
and they take money and go buy food at the food store

wa ti-nggewe ti-wesa ti-nisi i-ye aindi kapala.
and they-carry they-go they-boil it-lie their house
and carry it and go cook it at their house.

Aito aindi ekapakolapa asowa to, aito ti-ani ti-mi kapala lalo.
them.few their girls.boys spouse with them.few they-eat they-dwell house inside
They and their children and spouses, they eat [it] in their houses.

Wa i ewesika kikiya, inami kulakula bamo ano-ma.
and us women black our work big true-ly
But us black women, we have a lot of work.

Ika wa-nggo na-nggo tuwatuwa ditako su inami kulakula bani na.
so I-say I’ll-say story a.little on our work food of
So I want to talk a little bit about our food work.

Ikana inggo i ma-wasa ma-mi uma,
so when us we-go we-dwell garden
So, when we go to the garden,

ma-pai kulakula ka na-nggo:
we-do work as I’ll-say
we do work like the following:

Ma-so ane,
We plant taro,

ma-pai wai
we-do weeds
we weed,

ma-so undi iwoya,
we-plant banana sucker
we plant banana suckers,

ma-so towi iwoya,
we-plant sugarcane sucker
we plant sugarcane suckers,

ma-pai kulakula uma na ikana,
we-do work garden of thus
we do garden work like that,

ma-pai ma-mi beleya.
we-do we-dwell no.more
and we keep working until we finish.

Tako, ma-woti ma-ma ma-nggewe bani.
okay, we-descend we-come we-carry food
Okay, we come back down carrying food.

Ma-nggewe ane,
we-carry taro
We carry taro,

ma-nggewe undi,
we-carry banana
we carry bananas,

ma-nggewe // ma-tawi igabo.
we-carry // we-dig sweet.potato
we carry // we dig sweet potatoes,

Tako, ma-nggewe su // ma-waya su wali ma-nggewe ma-ma su teteu.
okay, we-carry to // we-wrap in netbag we-carry we-come to village
Okay, we carry them to // we put them in netbags and carry them back to the village.

Tako, ma-waga bani na wosa.
okay, we-divide food this apart
Okay, we divide the food up.

I-u luwa:
it-become two
Into two parts:

ma-ki inggo ni-ye gaya wambanama na i-ye susuna,
we-put [it] SAY it-lie morrow morning Th it-lie corner
we put it if it’s for the next morning in the corner,

wa manu inggo mana-nisi na ma-ki i-ye maina-ma.
and which SAY we’ll-boil Th we-put it-lie other-ly
and that which we plan to cook we place separately.

Ta ma-yaki manu inggo mana-nisi na, ma-yaki beleya,
That we-pare which SAY we’ll-boil Th we-pare no.more
Then we pare that which we plan to cook until we finish;

tako, ma-poni yawi.
okay, we-kindle fire
okay, we light the fire.

Ma-poni yawi beleya,
we-kindle fire no.more
We finish lighting the fire,

wa ma-ki bani manu ma-yaki na su ulanga.
and we-put food which we-pare Th in pot
and we put the food we’ve pared into the pot.

Ma-ki tina,
we-put freshwater
We add freshwater,

ma-ki tai,
we-put saltwater
we add saltwater,

wa, tako, ma-kuwa gauma.
and okay we-cover lid
and, okay, we put the lid on.

Beleya wai,
no.more Fin
That’s done,

wa, tako, ma-nggewe bele kele ma-wasa su tina.
and okay we-carry plate dirty we-go to river
and, okay, we take the dirty dishes to the river.

Bani manu yaweni i-ndo,
food aforesaid it-sit
(While) that food stays cooking,

ma-wasa ma-uya bele
we-go we-wash plate
we go wash the dishes,

wa, ma-yuma tina beleya
and we-bathe river no.more
and we finish bathing

wa, tako, ma-ma.
and okay we-come
and, okay, we come back.

Ma-koko ulanga ma-ki su kisa
we-lift pot we-put to aside
We lift the pot off the fire

wa ma-wesa bani
and we-distribute food
and we dish out the food.

Ma-ki bele manu ma-yawali i-wete inami asowa to ekapakolapa, ito tiyamama.
we-put plate aforesaid we-spread it-count our spouse with girls.boys us.few all
We spread those plates [we mentioned] out for our spouse and children, for all of us.

Inggo tae-wembi inami iba-wa-wawe katalu,
SAY belly-it.hold our in-laws some
If we think of some of our in-laws,

ma-ki bele katalu totoma.
we-put plate some along.with
we put out some extra plates.

ma-wesa bani manu i-wete bele manu i-wesa beleya,
we-distribute food aforesaid it-count plate aforesaid it-go no.more
We dish out the food into each plate until there’s no more,

tako, ito tiyamama ma-tamu ata ma-ani bani manu.
okay us.few all we-join selves we-eat food aforesaid
okay, we [collective] all join together in eating the food.

Bani inggo bamo,
food SAY much
If there’s a lot of food,

eta ma-ani go,
then we-eat after
then after we eat

ma-ki katalu i-ye lalawila wa towambana inggo mana-ani.
we-put some it-lie afternoon and night SAY we’ll-eat
we leave some until the afternoon and evening for us to eat.

Inggo bani ditako,
SAY food a.little
If there’s [only] a little food,

ma-ani tiyamama beleya.
we-eat [it] all no.more
we eat it all up.

Ewesika tiyamama eta ma-mi puta na
women all that we-dwell earth Th
All of us women who live on the earth,

inami kulakula bamo ano-ma su kulakula eta bani na.
our work much true-ly on work that food of
we really have a lot of work to do preparing food.

Kulakula tako,
work that’s.all,
That’s all the work,

Eta na-nggo tuwatuwa tupe ikana.
That I’ll-say story short thus
So I’ll stop my story short like this.

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Kulakula kundu na (Sago work)

This account of sago processing was told by Sawanga Aliau, a former Jabêm schoolteacher and Siboma village leader in his 50s in early December 1976 in Morobe Province, PNG. Listen to the full story here:

Kulakula kunda na
work sago of
Sago work

Tae-nembi inggo tana-lapa kundu te,
belly-hold Say yumi-beat sago one
If we’re thinking of beating a sago palm,

takalama aita tana-nggewe yawanzi, nuta, wanginda.
today yumi yumi-carry sheath, webbing, pounder,
today we’ll bring the sheathes, the webbing, the pounders;

Nomba tatena, tana-ki woyama ni-ye.
thing this, yumi-put ready it-lie
These things, we place ready.

Gaya, go ta ta-tala kundu tomu.
morrow after that yumi-chop sago severed
The next day, we chop down the sago.

Inggo ta-tala kundu tomu na,
Say yumi-chop sago severed Rel
When we chop the sago down,

a kole luwa mo toli ina-wosa ina-tala tomu.
maybe man two or three they-go they-chop severed
maybe two or three men will go chop it down.

Tako, ta lawa katalu ina-wasa ina-tamu,
okay then people some they-go they-join
Okay, then, some [other] people go join them,

wa, tako ina-so gilu.
and okay they-stab spines
and, okay, they’ll strike off the spines.

Wa lawa teulu, ina-ambi siyala ina-ma.
and people part they-take pole they-come
and one group will bring poles.

Ina-so gilu inggo beleya,
they-stab spines Say no.more
They’ll strike off the spines until they’re done,

tako, ina-so wosa.
okay, they-stab broken
okay, they’ll pry it open.

Ina-ambi yawa
they-take husk
They’ll take the husk

wa ina-so wosa.
and they-stab broken
and pry it open.

Ina-so wosa ni-wesa beleya,
they-stab broken it-go no.more
They’ll pry it open until it’s finished,

tako, ina-ki lawa lomosanga na wa lawa ina-lapa na.
okay they-set people rinsing of and people they-beat of
okay, they’ll set people for rinsing and people to pound.

Lawa lomosanga na ata ina-nggewe aindi kundu kapole wa nomba gabagaba ina-wasa ina-ki su tina.
people rinsing of later they-carry their sago stalk and thing various they-go they-put to river
The people for rinsing will then carry their sago stalks and things over to the river.

Lawa wanginda na, ewesika teulu, tamota teulu, ata ina-lapa.
people pounders of women part men part later they-beat
The pounder people, part women, part men, will then pound.

Wa ewesika teulu ina-ambi kundu ulasa ni-wesa su tina.
and women part they-take sago pulp it-go to river
And part of the women will take the sago pulp over to the river.

Go ta, lawa lomosanga na ina-lomosa.
after that people rinsing of they-rinse
Whereupon, the rinsing people will rinse it.

Wanginda na lawa, wa ina-yatingi kundu ni-wesa tina na ena lawa, ai ina-pai beleya,
pounder its people and they-transport sago it-go river of its people them they-do no.more
The pounder people, and who transport the sago to the river, those people, they’ll finish,

tako, ina-wasa su teteu,
okay they-go to village
okay, they’ll go to the village

ina-walanga ata.
they-release self
and relax.

Wa, ai lawa lomosanga na, ai ina-pai kulakula ka ina-mi.
and them people rinsing of them they-do work like they-dwell
And, those rinsing people, they’ll keep right on working.

Ina-lomosa ka ina-mi inggo ina-yanggo
they-rinse like they-dwell Say they-see
They keep on rinsing until they see

kundu na ulasa i-tabinga inggo beleya,
sago its pulp it-close Say no.more
the sago pulp is almost finished,

orait, ina-nggo binga denga lawa katalu [manu ti-walanga ata na],
alright they-say word to people some Wh they-release self Rel
okay, they’ll send word to some of the people who are resting,

ina-nggo, tako, muna-ambi damu wa walasa.
they-say okay yupl-hold torchfronds and rope
they’ll say, okay, “Bring torch fronds and rope.”

Ai ina-wasa ina-ambi damu wa walasa ina-ma ina-kalati woyama.
them they-go they-hold torchfrond and rope they-come they-fix ready
They’ll go fetch torch fronds and rope and come get them ready.

Wa ai lawa [eta ti-lomosa] ina-nggo beleya,
and them people that they-rinse they-say no.more
and those people who are rinsing, they’ll announce they’re finished,

tako, ina-ambi gogowa wai,
okay they-take chutes Fin
okay, they’ll take the washing chutes away,

wa, tako, ina-lapa tina tomu,
and okay they-beat water severed
and, okay, they’ll draw off the water

wa ina-so kundu na ano.
and they-stab sago its essence
and hit the sago starch.

Ina-yawali nutai,
they-spread webbing
They’ll spread out the coconut webbing,

wa, tako, ina-ki kundu na ano suwa.
and okay they-put sago its essence onto
and, okay, they’ll put the sago starch onto it.

Lawa [manu ti-ambi damu wai ti-ma i-ye woyama], ata ina-nggo binga de ata
people [Wh they-hold frond Fin they-come it-lie ready] later they-say word to self
The people who have brought the torch fronds ready, then they’ll say to each other,

ina-nggo ka ina-kalati sa [inggo ina-lalangi kundu na].
they-say like they-fix place Say they-scorch sago Rel
“Let them fix the place for scorching the sago.”

Tako, ina-kalati sa beleya,
okay 3pIr-fix place no.more
Okay, they’ll finish fixing the place,

wa lawa ina-usingi kundu.
and people they-shape sago
and [other] people will shape the sago.

Ina-usingi kundu su gogowa.
they-shape sago in chute
They’ll shape the sago in the [washing] chutes.

Ina-usingi ni-wesa beleya,
they-shape sago they-go no.more
They’ll finish shaping the sago,

tako, ina-poni yawi.
okay they-kindle fire
okay, they’ll build a fire.

Kole ni-ambi damu dudu na mainama.
man he-hold frond tip the separate.
A man will hold the torch frond tips separately.

E ata ni-tutuni damu dudui wai,
him later he-ignite frond tip Fin
He’ll later ignite the frond tips,

tako, e ni-ambi tamu ni-ndo
okay him he-hold together it-stay
okay, he’ll stay holding them together

wa ni-badami inggo ina-yatingi kundu,
and he-wait Say they-transport sago
and wait until they move the sago,

ina-ambi ina-ki su sak [manu ti-kalati wai woyama].
they-hold they-put on place Wh they-fix Fin ready
until they take it and put it on the place they’ve prepared.

Eana, ina-ki ni-wesa inggo beleya,
this they-put it-go Say no.more
This, they’ll keep putting there until it’s done,

tako, kole yawi na i-tutuni yawi.
okay man fire of he-ignite fire
okay, the fire man lights the fire.

Tako, ina-ki damu ni- ni-nzeka kundu,
okay they-put frond it-[go] they-lie.on sago
Okay, they’ll place the fronds on top of the sago,

wa e ni-ki yawi ni-solonga.
and him he-put fire it-enter
and he’ll put the fire into it.

It burns.

Yaweni ni-mi inggo beleya, it-dwell Say no.more
It keeps burning until it’s done,

tako, ina-ambi kundu dudu lau te ina-ma,
okay they-hold sago tip leaf one they-come
okay, they’ll bring a [type of] sago leaf tip

wa ta kundu lau na, ti-kamba ti-nggo ka sunimbani.
and that sago leaf the they-call they-say like sunimbani
and that sago leaf, they call sunimbani.

Ina-ambi ina-ma
they-hold they-come
They’ll bring it

wa ina-wou yawi gaula [manu yaweni na].
and they-whisk fire ash Wh fire-eat Rel
and they’ll whisk the ash that’s burnt.

Ai ina-wou ina-mi,
them they-whisk they-dwell
They’ll keep whisking it,

tako, wiya anoma.
okay, good truly
okay, very good.

Go ta, tako ina-usa.
after that okay they-slice
Whereupon, okay, they’ll slice it.

Ina-usa kundu, ena [manu yaweni], ina-usa,
they-slice sago its Wh fire-eat they-slice
They’ll slice the sago, its burnt part, they’ll slice

wa ina-kowa ena baloga.
and they-peel its crust
and they’ll peel off its crust.

Ina-kowa ena baloga,
they-peel its crust
They’ll peel off its crust,

tako, ina-ambi ina-wasa ina-ki ni-ye mainama.
okay they-hold they-go they-put it-lie separate
okay, they’ll take it and place it separately.

Wa kundu ketu, kundu ano, eana ina-ambi kundu lau ina-ma, to walasa ma ina-ma.
and sago egg sago essence this they-hold sago leaf they-come with rope Adv they-come
And the inside of the sago, the sago essence, this, they’ll bring sago leaves and come, along with rope.

Tako, ina-so nusa.
okay they-stab envelope
Okay, they’ll tie a leaf envelope.

Ina-so nusa ka ina-yomba.
they-stab envelope like they-wrap
They’ll tie a leaf envelope, like wrapping it.

They’ll wrap it,

tako, ina-so nusa beleya,
okay they-stab envelope no.more
okay, they’ll finish tying the envelopes,

tako, ina-zubusa kundu bamo na ni-pi sesemi ni-ye,
okay they-pile.up sago much the it-upon one it-lie
okay, they’ll pile most of the sago up in one place

wa ena baloga ina-bada de lawa kulakula na,
and its crust they-distribute to people work of
and its mantle, they’ll distribute to the workers

[manu ti-lomosa na mo ti-lapa wanginda na, mo ti-yatingi kundu i-wesa su tina na],
Wh they-rinse Rel or they-beat pounder Rel or they-transport sago 3s-go to river Rel
who rinsed, or wielded the pounders, or transported the sago to the river,

ena baloga ina-bada de ai.
its crust they-distribute to them
its mantle, they’ll distribute to them.

Wa kundu ano, ai ina-nggewe ni-wesa su kapala
and sago essence them they-carry it-go to house
And the sago starch, they’ll carry to the house

go ta, tako, ina-bada de lawa [manu ti-pai kulakula ], ewesika, tamota, lawa [manu ti-lapa wanginda na].
after that okay they-distribute to people Wh they-do work women men people Wh they-beat pounder Rel
then, okay, they’ll distribute it to the people who did the work, women, men, people who wielded the pounders.

Ina-bada de ai ni-wesa beleya.
they-distribute to them it-go no.more
They’ll finish distributing it to them.

Wa kundu nata, aindi ni-ye inggo ina-ani.
and sago owner theirs it-lie Say they-eat
And the palm owners, theirs will lie [ready] for them to eat.

Te kulakula kundu.
Topic work sago
And that’s sago work.

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Nomba eta kunda na (Sago)

This introduction to sago was told by Sawanga Aliau, a former Jabêm schoolteacher and Siboma village leader in his 50s in early December 1976 in Morobe Province, PNG. Listen to the full story here:

Nomba eta kunda na.
The thing known as sago.

Kundu e bani tema, Niu Gini Papua ndi bani matana i-tamu ane,
sago it food one New Guinea Papua their food early it-join taro
Sago is a kind of food, Papua New Guineans’ original food, along with taro,

go ta bani kakapi katalu i-ma i-tamu.
after that food small some it-come it-join
after which some minor foods have come along.

Eta ti-kamba ti-nggo ka bani.
These they-call they-say like food
These they call “food” [or “staples”].

Sese kundu alu ane, e bani matana.
but sago and taro they food early
But sago and taro, they were the original foods.

kundu, ena lau wa kapole, ena wambala tiyamama nomba sesemi,
sago its leaf and stalk its cargo all thing one&same
Sago, its leaf and stalk, all its content is the same,

sese ena bolo luwa,
but its skin two
but its skin is of two types:

tema to luli,
one with thorn
one with thorns,

tema luli mou.
one thorn none
one without thorns.

To luli, ti-kamba ti-nggo kundu bala
with thorn they-call they-say sago bala
With thorns, they call bala sago,

tema, ti-nggo kundu iyawama
one they-say sago iyawama
one, they call iyawama sago,

tema, ti-nggo dawena.
one they-say dawena
one, they call dawena.

Wa kundu luli mou na, ti-kamba te, ti-nggo ka kutawi,
and sago thorn none of they-call one they-say like kutawi
And the sago without thorns, they call one kutawi,

wa te, ti-nggo ka buli
and one they-say like buli
and one, they call buli.

Aluwa-ndi wambala wa golonga nomba sesemi,
two-their cargo and adornment thing one&same
The content and foliage of the two is the same,

Sese, ai ti-ambi (= tembi) ase eta minamaina.
but, them they-take name that various
but they take names that are various.

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