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Maenge gardens

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Françoise Panoff

Chapter 1. The Maenge

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1The Maenge tribe lives in New Britain. It is a small group of about 5,000 persons who live in adjacent but distinct areas:

2The Maenge proper are settled mainly around Jacquinot Bay and Waterfall Bay. The last village to the west is Lau (see Map 1). It is difficult to set a precise eastern boundary to the Maenge area since Maenge villages are found in Wide Bay, interspersed with Baining and Sulka settlements. A Maenge village is even found at Mope on the Gazelle Peninsula (M. Panoff 1969a). The word Maenge (not Mengen) derives from a verb meaning to swim and to bathe. It originally referred to that part of the tribe which lived in the coastal area around the western half of Jacquinot Bay. Here, the word Maenge will be used to refer to the whole tribe. The phrase “coastal Maenge” will be used to refer to that part of the tribe settled on the coast.

3The Longueinga or so-called Bush-Mengen occupy a high valley, two days’ walk away from the south coast and one day away from the north coast. They number about 1,500 persons.

Map 1

Map 1

DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN GEOGRAPHY, A.N.U.

4The Maenge area has been divided by the Administration into three census divisions: the “East Mengen”, “West Mengen” and “Bush Mengen” (See Map 1). Some slight linguistic variations coincide with these divisions. Despite some antagonism between the Maenge of Jacquinot Bay and those of Waterfall Bay, there was a feeling of linguistic unity throughout the tribe.

5Maenge is an Austronesian language. To the east, it is surrounded by non-Austronesian languages – Kol and Baining – while to the north and west, the Maenge’s neighbours, the Nakanai and Namusi, both speak Austronesian languages. Mostly based on lexical evidence, Chowning (1969) has elaborated a “Mengen family” that comprises three main groups: Maenge, Mamusi and Uvol (see Map 2). The variations found in the Maenge area are mainly phonemic and lexical. Thus, initial “t” becomes “s” in many words in Matong. For example, Malakuru tava becomes Matong sava; coastal gua becomes Longueinga ua. The word for fire is poi in Malakuru and sia in Matong. While these variations do not prevent people from understanding one another, they are used to underline the origin of newcomers in recently founded villages.

Map 2. Linguistic divisions in New Britain (reproduced from Chowning 1969)

Map 2. Linguistic divisions in New Britain (reproduced from Chowning 1969)

Maenge environment

Geology, terrain and soils

6In 1969, the Bureau of Mineral Resources in Canberra sent a team of geologists to New Britain. One of them let me have a draft of his final report (Ryburn 1970), from which the information that follows is extracted (See Appendix I and Map 7 p. 186).

7The geological evolution of New Britain appears to have started in the Pliocene with an episode of volcanism, followed by further episodes in the Upper Oligocene and Lower Miocene. In the Middle Miocene, thick reef limestone was deposited over much of the island, originating the karst country which characterizes the Maenge area. A regional uplift on the south coast produced a series of raised coral reefs, particularly visible in Jacquinot Bay. Raised coral reefs also appear in Waterfall Bay. The Quaternary was marked by further volcanic episodes, limited to the east, north and west of the island. During the twentieth century, volcanoes have erupted in the Rabaul area and on the north coast (Ulawun, Lalobau and Fago).

8Ulawun (or Imvulu, the “Father”, in Maenge) plays an important part in Maenge mythology. It erupted several times at the beginning of the twentieth century and again in 1970. Ashes are found in the soil of the valley where the Longueinga live. This may explain why this part of the lime area is inhabited, while so much of it is deserted. Everywhere, the lime has been eroded and rivers have cut deep valleys in the mountains. On the coast, villages are usually located at river mouths, either on narrow littoral plains nowhere wider than a few miles or on hills rising just behind the beach. Behind these littoral plains, mountains rise steeply, forming a barrier of one to three thousand feet high on the horizon. The plateau occupied by the Longueinga is at an altitude of about 3,500 feet. It is open to the north, where the “Father” and its “South Son” are visible, but bordered by mountains reaching between 4,000 and 5,000 feet on the other sides. The layer of clays found over much of the lime is bare on village sites and paths. Despite the heavy rainfall, drainage is good thanks to the calcareous nature of the rock beds. Soil samples were collected in one of the coastal villages, Matong, and analyzed in Canberra showing a predominance of clays and loam. Haantjens’ analysis and commentaries (1970) are presented in Appendix II.

Rainfall and temperature

  • 7 The map is taken from Brookfield 1966; some of the climate data in this paragraph is taken from Br (...)

9The central part of the south coast of New Britain, and the Maenge area more particularly, is one of the wettest parts of New Guinea (see Map 3)7. The mean annual rainfall at Pomio for the period extending from 1957 to 1968 was 230 inches, with a peak of 266.06 inches in 1960. The wet season can start at any time between April and July and is usually over by mid-September although it may also rain heavily in September. The wettest months are July and August with means of 50.4 inches and 45.4 inches respectively. During the 1957-1966 period the record was 95 inches in August. From November to February, rainfall drops to a few inches, with a lowest record of 5 inches in February. During the dry season, rain tends to fall during short storms so that most of the monthly rainfall occurs over two or three days. During July and August, it rains daily, sometimes without interruption. Temperatures are lower during the wet season, so that cold and wet are associated in Maenge thought in contrast with dry and hot. There is a marked difference between day and night temperatures and this contrast is greater during the dry season.

Map 3: An interpretation of mean annual rainfall, using all available data. (from Brookfield 1966).

Map 3: An interpretation of mean annual rainfall, using all available data. (from Brookfield 1966).
  • 8 (Editor’s note). This appears to be a rare occurrence with taro crops.

10On the coast, the famine period used to take place during the dry months of January and February. This was due as much to the drought that could desiccate crops as to the festivities held in December, during which much of the mature crops was eaten. Recently, food shortage occurred more at the end of the wet season, as the taro crops rotted8 and not enough yams had been planted for eating during that period. The Longueinga have two wet seasons, as they share the climate of both the south coast and the north coast. For them the rain begins at the end of January and there is only a short remission between the end of this first rainy season and the beginning of the next one. The lower temperature on the coast is associated with a significant change in the vegetation cover.

Vegetation cover

  • 9 (Author’s note). For the sake of convenience, binomials are given in the text without the authorit (...)

11The vegetation cover of the Longueinga country differs markedly from that of the coastal area. In the mountains, climax forest is a mixed oak forest where Castanopsis acuminatissima is the dominant species9. C. acuminatissima is first found at an altitude of 2,500 feet but it does not flower at this altitude. As the Maenge put it, when the oak saw the sea, it stopped bearing acorns. The only report on the flora of New Britain was written by Lloyd (1954), after he joined the team of anthropologists who worked among the Lakalai under Goodenough’s direction. His report has been used for comparison, together with Robbins’ studies of the mainland vegetation formations (1961).

Coastal area

12In the coastal area, five different gross formations are found: the strand forest (beach vegetation), the mangrove forest, the alluvial forest, the hill forest and the secondary growth on fallow lands. As the last category is mainly a result of human work and must be described in terms of sub-categories, it will be discussed more thoroughly in the next chapter together with the gardens, fields and coconut plantations that form such an important part of the Maenge landscape. I will now turn to the four first categories.

13The strand forest occupies but a small area on the crest of the beach ridge and it is characterized by the presence of the following species: Terminalia catappa, Calophyllum inophyllum, Barringtonia asiatica, Hibiscus tiliaceus, Pandanus tectorius, Hernandia peltata, Pongamia pinnata, Eugenia samarangense, Cordia subcordata, Cerbera manghas, Scaevola taccada, Excoecaria agallocha, Desmodium umbellatum, Cycas rumphii, Cocos nucifera. Behind the beach where the sand is often bound by vines such as Vigna lutea, these trees and shrubs form a line that is about 10 feet high. At their feet, herbaceous plants such as Crinum macranthum are often found. The mangrove forest is dominated by various Bruguiera species (Bruguiera sp., Bruguiera sexangula) and Rhizophora species (particularly Rizophora stylosa). Muddy shores are not frequent in the Maenge area and therefore the areas covered with mangrove tend to be few. In Jacquinot Bay, mangrove forest areas occur mostly to the east, around Pomio and Sali, while in Waterfall Bay and along the coast from Cape Cunningham to Vairamana, they are localized near rivers. One should note here the absence of fresh water swamps and of Metroxylon species. The Maenge word for sago-palm is lamvia, a Nakanai word, and the Maenge know about sago making through their northern neighbours. The alluvial forest is characterized by the presence of the following species: Pometia pinnata, Eugenia malaccensis, Canarium cf. schlechteri, Gmelina moluccana, Amoora cucullata, Alstonia scholaris, Alstonia spectabilis, Caryota rumphii, Dysoxylon sp., Aglaia sp., Cryptocarya sp., Aphanamixis polystachya, Intsia bijuga and many other species belonging to the Magnoliaceae, Apocynaceae, Leguminosae, Palmaceae, Ulmaceae, Sterculiaceae, Anacardiaceae, Ebenaceae, Elaeocarpaceae, Lauraceae, Dichopetalaceae, Araliaceae, Annoaceae, Rubiaceae, Moraceae, Verbenaceae, Rhamnaceae, together with members of the Sapindaceae, Myrtaceae and Bursareaceae families. This is a complex forest with five layers of trees, shrub and ground covering species. The canopy layer is over 100 feet high. Many of the tall trees possess large buttresses. Palms are present in this forest (mostly Archontophoenix sp. and Caryota rumphiana), as well as rattans. Vines belong to the Liliaceae, Urticaceae and Convolvulaceae. On river banks, one finds species such as Octomeles Sumatrana, Caesarea acutifolia, Stemonurus ammui and Eucalyptus deglupta, the latter forming large strands in Waterfall Bay and along the coast between Cape Cunningham and Vairamana. The hill forest is slightly different from the alluvial forest. There we find species such as Homalium foetidum and Calophyllum cf. soulattri, while Canarium cf. schlechteri, Sterculia sp, Pometia pinnata and Pterocarpus indicus are also of importance.

14The secondary growth, where the forest has replaced the first wave of Gramineae and various other herbaceous plants, includes the following dominant species: Albizia falcataria, Macaranga aleuritoides, Mallotus ricinoides, Pipturus argenteus, Glochidion sp., Kleinhovia hospita, Leea macropus and another Leea sp., Trema orientalis, Leucosyke capitellata and Decaspermum sp. Secondary growth also includes members of the Leguminosae, Euphorbiaceae, Urticaceae, Rutaceae, Anacardiaceae, Moraceae, Araliaceae, Combretaceae, Elaeocarpaceae, Tiliaceae, Sterculiaceae, Meliaceae, Myrsinaceae, Myrtaceae, Pittosporaceae, Annonaceae and Gnetaceae. Vines belong to the Liliaceae, Piperaceae, Flagellariaceae, Urticaceae and Convolvulaceae.

Mountain area

15Together with Castanopsis acuminatissima and a Nothofagus sp., the following species are found in the mountain area: Canarium cf. schlechteri, Gmelina moluccana, Elmerrillia papuana, Alstonia scholaris and Galbulimima belgraveana. Besides Fagaceae, Burseraceae, Verbenaceae, one finds members of the following families: Guttiferae, Sapindaceae, Rubiaceae, Ulmaceae, Flacourticaceae, Myrtaceae, Theaceae. Several palms are also present. Vines belong mostly to the Urticaceae and Apocynaceae families. The secondary vegetation is poor and relatively scanty when compared to that of the coast. It is dominated by Albizia falcataria and Prosopis insularum on hill tops and by Macaranga aleuritoides in humid depressions. Further species found in secondary vegetation include: Macaranga decipiens, Maoutia sp., Premna sp., Euodia elleryana, Endospermum formicarum. Fig tree species include Ficus pungens, F. itoana, F. botryocarpa and F. adenosperma. Well represented families include Leguminosae, Verbenaceae, Urticaceae, Rutaceae, Ulmaceae, Syracaceae, Melastomaceae, Myristicaceae, Piperaceae, Sterculiaceae, Malvaceae, Rosaceae, Moraceae, Euphorbiaceae and Solanaceae. Most frequently found vines belong to the Cucurbitaceae, Piperaceae, Convolvulaceae, Apocynaceae, Lilliaceae and Vitaceae.

16Both on the coast and in the mountains, the forest offers many different species which have been exploited commercially in modern times (such as Eucalyptus deglupta in the Waterfall Bay and Cape Cunningham areas) but which have traditionally offered products ranging from food, timber, thatching materials, fibres, firewood, wood for canoe and drum making to weapons, glue, dyes, fish poisons and remedies of all sorts. The forest has always been the reserve from which numerous goods were taken and it will remain so for a long time.

Social organisation

  • 10 (Editor’s note). The author appears to refer to endogamy in local clusters of villages rather than (...)

17Among the Maenge, the rule of descent is matrilineal. Maenge society is divided into two moieties, Mata e volau, the big moiety and Mata e sina, the small moiety, which are exogamous except among the Longueinga. Maenge moieties have their counterparts among the Mamusi and Tomoive. Moieties are characterized by specific totems. In addition to regulating marriages, they also have ceremonial functions. Clans, mata ina, (section of mata) or kamana (arm, branch) are exogamous but not localized. They would be described as sibs in Murdock’s terminology (1949). Clans bear individual names and they have totems which are taboo for clan members. The spirits of a clan’s dead members gather in a specific abode from which the clan emerged in the past. Clans own specific mask designs, varieties of cultivated plants and magic formulae that cannot be transmitted outside the clan except in special circumstances. Some clans have special powers over certain kinds of phenomena; for example, the Laia and Pasigo clans, whose members are servants of the chthonian deity Malila, control thunderstorms, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Clan mates pay visits to one another even when living at considerable distances, for initiation rites, marriage ceremonies or bereavements. Clans are divided into sub-clans, which come from the same place of emergence and share the same totem but which have separated to live in different villages. Due to this dispersion, it is local segments of clans, which play a part in village life. Post-marital residence is bilocal, with a preference for virilocality. Whichever spouse moved, it is seldom further away than to a neighbouring village. While postmarital moves are variable due to historical or demographical accidents, the proportion of endogamous marriages may be up to a third or even a half of the total number. For instance, in the case of the village of Malakuru, endogamous marriages represent about a third of the total but the rate of endogamy within village clusters is higher if one reckons the origins of spouses who have joined a village through virilocal or uxorilocal marriages10. All spouses were found to come from the nearby villages of Parole, Pigapuna and Ngavale, except for one who came from the village of Malimali, a few miles from Malakuru. In Matong, endogamous marriages represent half of the total number of marriages, with an equal number of uxorilocal and virilocal marriages. Again, most of the incoming spouses originated from nearby villages such as Poma, Buka or Tokai (see Map 1). When the bride had moved outside her village, a bride-price had to be paid, but this usually took the form of bride-service by a son-in-law to his parents-in-law. Mostly big men paid bride price. The custom of commoners paying bride price is relatively recent (see Reay 1966). In the past as well as today, the aim of ambitious men was to retain both their married sons and daughters in their villages. This is well illustrated by the cases of the “Father of the village”, Luluai Samoa, from Vairamana. Out of the 14 houses of his village, the Father, his wife and his married children occupy four.

18A Maenge village is thus characterized by the predominance of a few clans, which are either the founding clans or clans related to them through consanguineal or affinal links, and by the presence of other clans represented in nearby villages and with which a tradition of intermarriage may exist. In Malakuru, one finds members of 11 clans but only four of those total more than 15 persons. In Matong, 18 different clans and sub-clans are found, as shown in Table I. Apart from moieties and clans, the most important kin category is the galiau, (shield) corresponding to what Goodenough (1962) has named nodal kindred. As distinct from kindreds, nodal kindreds are centred on a group rather than an Ego. They are formed by the overlap of several personal kindreds. In Matong, several of these nodal kindreds play a significant part in village life and politics. They are centered around the leaders of the most powerful local clans, the Galekorokoro, Marana and Laia. The village population can be described as gravitating around these three poles. Villages are composed of hamlets, which is not readily observable when houses, as in Matong, are aligned on two rows on both sides of a path and dancing ground, without any boundary marking between the different hamlets. Co-residents in hamlets tend to belong to the same galiau while the hamlet territory belongs to the clan of its leaders. In time of war, a leader expected support from members of his galiau and they also assisted him in the making of large ceremonial gardens, the building of houses or when he sponsored a ceremony.

Table I. Numerical importance of clans in several villages including Matong

Name of clan

Number of Adults

Number of Children

Total

1. Malakuru village

Lolopuna

13

11

24

Lengelenge

7

12

19

Kavuing

5

10

15

Kailo

3

13

16

Maililingana

2

5

7

Kanae

2

5

7

Pasigo

2

2

4

Tagataga

2

0

2

Laia

1

0

1

Gula

1

0

1

Marana

1

0

1

2. Ngavale village

Lolopuna

21

52

73

Tagataga

14

21

35

Kavuing

9

19

28

Kailo

5

5

10

Pasigo

3

11

14

Malanga

4

8

12

Matopuna

5

5

10

Kanae

3

0

3

Maililingana

1

0

1

Raporo

1

0

1

Gula

1

0

1

3. Parole village

Kailo

17

37

54

Kavuing

6

23

29

Lolopuna

9

3

12

Matopuna

3

6

9

Gula

2

5

7

Tagatagapuna

3

1

4

Kerapuna

3

0

3

Maililingana

1

0

1

Viviliga

1

0

1

Lokato

1

0

1

4. Matong village

Rainana

12

21

33

Valakauna

14

10

24

Marana

13

8

21

Mero

4

17

21

Laia

10

9

19

Palege

5

8

13

Kamvoin

7

5

12

Olenga

2

9

11

Galekorokoro

6

5

11

Solel

3

5

8

Seri

2

4

6

Ravarava

2

3

5

Mango

1

3

4

Kangalilona

1

3

4

Paopuna

3

0

3

Gumvi

2

0

2

Manatapu

1

0

1

Vovo

1

0

1

19Villages generally vary in size from 50 to 300 persons as shown in Table II. In 1968, Parole comprised 123 inhabitants, Malakuru 97, Pigapuna 48, Kerakerena 86, Vaina 76, Rurei 77. In 1969, Vairamana numbered 63, while Pakia, a mountain village, numbered 268, divided into four distinct hamlets. In 1970, Matong inhabitants numbered 199. On the coast, the village of Galue is exceptionally large, as it was formed after World War II by mountain people from various villages at the headwaters of the Galue river. The population density is generally low (1-4 per square mile, see Map 4). It is higher only in the Jacquinot Bay area, where several villages (Parole, Malakuru, Pigapuna, Kerkarerena, Vaina, Rurei and Ngavale) are closely settled near one another. Village territories have known boundaries, which consist of natural markers such as rivers, rocks or stretches of forest. Villages have their own fishing and hunting grounds, as well as their own beaches where canoes are drawn ashore. Villages lead a quite independent life. Even though they are close to one another, as in the case of Malakuru and surrounding villages, visits are rarely paid to neighbours other than kin or affines.

20Villages are still seen as competitive units and rivalry is expressed at ceremonies or on other occasions as modern circumstances allow. For instance, when money was collected within cargo cult activities in 1967, this was done on a village basis and villages boasted about the sums they had raised. Yet when the assistant Commissioner suggested that each village open its own bank account for using its money for its own development, the idea was firmly rejected.

21A Maenge village today is made up of several marital houses, a few men’s houses and some communal buildings such a chapel, a church or a cult house where cargo cult ceremonies are held; perhaps a school, a copra drier and a medical health post. The latter buildings tend to be located outside the village site, as can be seen on the map of Matong’s territory (Map 5). Each nuclear family lives in a separate dwelling. Out of the 19 marital houses of Malakuru, 15 are occupied by nuclear families (with an average of five members), one by a widow and three by nuclear families plus members of different generations of outsiders. In addition, the village includes three men’s houses (Table II). It is not customary for a man to live permanently in a men’s house. Only young boys and unmarried men do so. Polygyny was, and to some extent still is, the rule among village leaders. Usually each wife lives in a separate house together with her children. It is only in the case of sororal polygyny that wives live together. Thus, the hamlet of Pakia (Lomo), where Piteso lives as a luluai and “Father of the Village”, consists almost solely of the houses of his numerous wives. Marital houses are generally built around or alongside a dancing ground.

Map 4. Papua New Guinea: density of population by census divisions, 1960 (reproduced from Brookield 1966)

Map 4. Papua New Guinea: density of population by census divisions, 1960 (reproduced from Brookield 1966)

Map 5. Matong: the village territory, neighbouring plantations and villages

Map 5. Matong: the village territory, neighbouring plantations and villages
  • 11 (Publisher’s note) See below p. 40-44.

22The men’s houses are conspicuously built in front of the marital houses, around or alongside the dancing ground. Men’s houses are built by leaders, to house their sons, their nephews and sons of members of their galiau. They are named after the leaders who decided to have them built and are usually located on ground belonging to their clans. Apart from various big-men, who could achieve their status through personal endeavour, the leading figure in a village was the “Father of the Village” (magatamana), both a ritual and secular leader who inherited his title and secured his special knowledge either from his maternal kinsmen or his paternal kinsmen. His task was to perform rituals connected with village prosperity and to entertain visitors. Though it was often he who decided when collective gardens had to be made and rites of passage held, he never had the prestige nor the authority that big-men enjoy in other parts of Melanesia. Chiefly a ritual expert, he could increase his influence through his personal ability, but he might also be used as a scapegoat by the population. In any given village, there could be several of those “Fathers”; it was not unusual to have one Father per hamlet. This was certainly the case for hamlets that possessed the sacred stones (sasavanga) responsible for village prosperity. When the German administration appointed headmen, these were often “Fathers” of a village. Nowadays, as the system inherited from German times is replaced by Local Government Councils, these traditional leaders are rarely elected as councillors. They do, however, retain some influence, mainly through the millenarian movement11 and thanks also to their special skills concerning the growing of plants and the curing of sickness.

Table II. Village population

Name of Village

Name of Hamlets*

Number of Inhabitants

Number of Marital Houses

Number of Men’s Houses

Malakuru

97

97

19

3

Ngavale

185

185

36

2

Parole

123

123

24

1

Pigapuna

48

48

9

1

Kerakerena

Kantaive

21

4

1

-

Kerakerena

20

5

0

-

Vegapuna

45

9

1

Vaina

-

76

16

2

Rurei

-

77

16

1

Pakia

Lomo

43

9

1

-

Paugalasei

42

8

2

-

Gana

90

18

3

-

Voa

93

14

1

Vairamana

-

63

14

0

Matong

-

199

41

6

* When they constitute discrete entities.

23Rights in gardening land are vested in the matri-clans, or rather in the local segments of these clans. Not all clans and sub-clans represented in a village, however, possess such rights; their members must be granted permission by the land-holding clans to garden there. Conflicts over gardening land do not arise since the land is only used for a short period. New problems have arisen with cash-cropping, since although individual land did exist in the past, it was only on a small scale. Under certain circumstances, a man is entitled to allot his gardens to his sons and after his death nobody can dispute his sons’ rights to this land. This arrangement particularly concerns gardens made in climax forest. Another branch of the same clan could not claim a right to the land of an extinct branch unless there were no descendants in the paternal line. In this way, linear patri-kin belonging to a different clan retained longer rights than collateral matri-kin. A foreigner could be given a site in a village but he could be expelled more easily if he did not marry within the village. Once gardening land had been given to him, he could retain it and give it to his matrilineal descendants who had an exclusive right over it, if there had been a break in the cultivation. When he wanted to extend his plots, however, he had to ask for his patrons’ permission.

24Rights in tree crops were different from those in gardening land. A man could be allowed to plant or clear trees on land to which he had no claims, provided he be granted permission to do so, a custom still found in Matong. With the introduction of cash cropping, however, this custom has been suppressed in most parts of the Maenge territory. Only coconuts and palms were commonly planted. Other trees (Canarium almond, breadfruit, Malay apple, mango and chestnut trees) were usually cleared and protected. One finds trees on village sites, along paths and in fallow gardens. These trees, together with shell-money and cultivars, represented the material property of the matri-clans. Yet a man was entitled to bestow on his children part of his cultivars, as well as the trees that he had planted or cleared. Otherwise, these trees went to members of his lineage (see M. Panoff 1970 for details).

25Trade and warfare brought distant villages together, whether they belonged to different tribes or to neighbouring ones. Trade items were mainly salt, pigs, dogs, shells, cultivars, red ochre and the iron oxide used in teeth blackening (M. Panoff, 1969a). Today, the main trade item between the coastal villages and the Longueinga is tobacco, which most of the coastal villages have stopped cultivating. By far, the most unifying force is the local cargo cult, which provides a well-knit organization within the tribe and without. This semi-religious and semi-political movement has reinforced a feeling of tribal identity and developed solidarity with the neighbouring tribes, which is a new feature in local life. For the first time in Maenge history, we find an institution functioning at the level of the tribe and above it.

History of contact

26The first sign that the Maenge received of the white man’s presence was, as might be expected, a bottle, which they mistook for the fruit of an unknown Alstonia sp., with which they adorn the trunk of the Myristica sp., used in mourning rites. The next sign was smoke on the horizon, which they thought was the smoke of tobacco blown by Nutu, one of the characters in Maenge mythology. From the Longueinga, the Maenge received a singlet, which was handled with care as it was believed to be the body of an evil spirit, since the body is but the outward envelope of the soul in Maenge conceptions. In 1899, the Bishop of Rabaul, Mr. Couppé, saw knives in Jacquinot Bay (Laufer, 1955). They probably originated from the Gazelle Peninsula where they were traded by Tolai for Nassa shells on the north coast of New Britain, then passed on by the Nakanai to the Longueinga who then sold them to the coastal Maenge. Steel axes followed the same route. They were given names, as is customary with any important property. The coastal Maenge still complain about the Longueinga, saying that they cheated them, asking high prices for worn objects while retaining the good ones for themselves. It was either through the same route or via their western neighbours that the Maenge received their first sweet potato, which most of them now believe to be part of their traditional cultigens. (Regarding the introduction of sweet potato in the Pacific, see Yen 1963.) When elderly informants saw stumps that had been cut with stone adzes in their youth, they wept thinking of the hard time their forebears had had. After tools, cotton clothing came in and finally, in recent years, radio sets (one or two per village).

27During German times, two plantations were opened in the Maenge country: one at Kolai near Matong, the other at Pamalimali in Jacquinot Bay. At Kolai, the settler was a relative of Queen Emma, the half-American, half-Samoan who had large plantations in Samoa as well as in the Gazelle Peninsula. A few Maenge were recruited to work on these plantations above as well as in plantations on the Gazelle peninsula. Others were sent to Samoa. But it was only after World War 1 that some Maenge left their homeland to live for some time in different environments. Other plantations were opened between the two wars. The first catechists were sent to Matong and Malakuru in 1925. The first European missionary, who was German, arrived in 1931 and established his headquarters at Malimali in Jacquinot Bay. He belonged to the Mission of the Sacred Heart (M.S.C.), which until recently remained the only mission represented in the Maenge area. After World War II, German priests were replaced by Irish ones. The mission opened primary schools in several coastal villages, while the Australian Administration created a school in Pomio. Only two schools, however, include all the grades. Those few children who qualify for a secondary education are sent to the Gazelle Peninsula.

  • 12 (Publisher’s note). “Cup of tea” in neo-Melanesian (pidgin). The pidgin spoken in Papua New Guinea (...)

28The Maenge still depend on gardening for their daily subsistence. They have two sources of income: wage-earning as plantation labourers, and the production of copra. Since bride price has become a well-established custom, young men usually work in plantations for a period varying from a few months to a few years while in their twenties. Once they get married, it is rare that they work for more than a few weeks at a time and usually on nearby plantations. They do this to get the money necessary for paying tax and their children’s school fees as well as to buy a few tools, garments, rice and tins for festivities. Bride prices do not amount to more than 10 or 20 Australian dollars. Current wages on plantations are $A 3.50 per week. For traditional feasts, within one village as much as a hundred dollars may be spent on food bought in stores, but these feasts are not held annually. New feasts have appeared, that do not necessitate long preparations and can be held without killing pigs. These are the “kapti12, well known among the Tolai as a way of raising money (see A.L. Epstein 1969: 68, 93).

29In Matong, at any given time an average of seven persons are working as labourers on nearby plantations. They bring into the village an average of A$1,176 per year. In addition, a few village members receive a regular salary: the headmaster, the assistant post orderly, the plantation manager (kolai), the plantation supervisor (marau) and the personal servant of the plantation manager (manukuna). These persons bring another A$1,132 into the village each year. By comparison, the income from copra is very low: A$565 in 1969. Coconut planting started before World War II, but the main campaigns of the Department of Agriculture postdate the war. Experiments with cocoa started in the early 1960s but the area proved too wet for cocoa cultivation. In 1969, the Maenge Native Society, a cooperative founded after the war, received A$7,278 from the Copra Marketing Board in Rabaul for roughly 60 tons of copra. The proceeds from cocoa within the same period were A$1,949. Not all the copra produced by the Maenge is brought to the Society, but the figure corresponds to the production of the villages located around Jacquinot Bay. The Administration attributes this low production to the millenarian movement. The situation is more complex, however, as proved by the case of Matong. During recent years, the people of Matong have increased their plantation of coconut trees by 60%. Their difficulty in producing copra is due more to the absence of marketing facilities than to ideological reasons. In January 1970, coconut plantations in Matong comprised 13,669 trees, over an area about 130 acres, but only 5,180 trees are productive, over an area of about 50 acres. These trees could produce about 14 tons of copra per year (Child, 1964), with an income of A$1,680. For some time, copra production was organized on a village basis, but it is now done by three different groups which I shall refer to as A, B and C. Group A is against the millenarian movement and its leader belongs to the Marana clan. Groups B and C belong to the millenarian movement and they are organized, respectively, around the leaders of the Laia and the Gakekorokoro clans (Tables IIIa and IIIb).

Table IIIa. Total number of coconut trees in Matong

Table IIIa. Total number of coconut trees in Matong

30For a long period, the Maenge area was administered from the far-away patrol post located at Gasmata, at the west of the Maenge country. The Maenge area is now administered from Pomio and is part of the East New Britain District. New local institutions however, a House of Assembly in Port Moresby and a Local Government Council at Pomio, have changed the character of political life. Millenarian movements have existed in the area since World War II. Whether they existed before the war is not clear. The presence of Japanese and American troops in Jacquinot Bay was directly instrumental in the development of these movements. The present movement called “Kivung” (a Tolai term meaning gathering) is centred around an Arawe leader, Koriam Urekit, who managed to get elected in 1964, then in 1968 and again in 1968 as a Member of the House of Assembly. Chowning and Goodale conducted a study of the first elections among the Sengseng, a small tribe living near Kandrian (see Chowning and Goodale, 1965). In the Maenge area, the millenarian “kivung bilong Koriam” has prohibited betel chewing and work on Thursday. On Friday morning, communal work is done in the collective gardens of the cult house.

Table IIIb. Producing and non-producing coconut trees

Table IIIb. Producing and non-producing coconut trees

31As well as these collective gardens, a cult house and a house built to receive cargo are the visible manifestations of the millenarian movement (see M. Panoff 1969c). When the Administration decided to create a “Local Government Council” in the area, it was Koriam who persuaded the Maenge leaders of the movement to join this Council. Maenge leaders thus became President and Vice-President of the Council, while most village leaders of the cult are also Councillors. The creation of the Local Government Council gave the leaders of the cult a kind of official recognition, a fact readily emphasized in their public speeches. Outsiders are mostly “local entrepreneurs”, men who own the largest coconut plantations (above 500 trees) and/or stores. They have been encouraged by the Administration to stand against the movement, often being compelled to lead a marginal life on the village outskirts. In Matong, for instance, the Marana leader and some of his followers live at Malopuna, a small hamlet on the shore. Significantly, the millenarian ceremonies are held mostly in the large ceremonial gardens. This points to the importance of gardening in Maenge life, a theme which I will develop in the next chapter.

Photograph 3. Matong village, part of the dancing ground; the main path and the houses located towards the sea.

Photograph 4. Matong. The main path leading from the village to the gardens located on the eastern part of the village territory. To the right, coconut plantations, belonging to members of the Galekorokoro clan. We can see a young woman, Matanakaka, bringing food back from the garden into the village.

Notes

7 The map is taken from Brookfield 1966; some of the climate data in this paragraph is taken from Brookfield and Hart 1966, and some is taken from records kept at Pomio.

8 (Editor’s note). This appears to be a rare occurrence with taro crops.

9 (Author’s note). For the sake of convenience, binomials are given in the text without the authority’s name. A list of all the trees quoted in the text, including authorities’names, is given in Table V.

10 (Editor’s note). The author appears to refer to endogamy in local clusters of villages rather than to village endogamy as intermarriage within one village.

11 (Publisher’s note) See below p. 40-44.

12 (Publisher’s note). “Cup of tea” in neo-Melanesian (pidgin). The pidgin spoken in Papua New Guinea is today called Tok Pisin..

Table des illustrations

Titre Map 1
Légende DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN GEOGRAPHY, A.N.U.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/768/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 218k
Titre Map 2. Linguistic divisions in New Britain (reproduced from Chowning 1969)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/768/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 285k
Titre Map 3: An interpretation of mean annual rainfall, using all available data. (from Brookfield 1966).
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/768/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 309k
Titre Map 4. Papua New Guinea: density of population by census divisions, 1960 (reproduced from Brookield 1966)
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/768/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 235k
Titre Map 5. Matong: the village territory, neighbouring plantations and villages
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/768/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 239k
Titre Table IIIa. Total number of coconut trees in Matong
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/768/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 265k
Titre Table IIIb. Producing and non-producing coconut trees
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/768/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 308k
Légende Photograph 3. Matong village, part of the dancing ground; the main path and the houses located towards the sea.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/768/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 188k
Légende Photograph 4. Matong. The main path leading from the village to the gardens located on the eastern part of the village territory. To the right, coconut plantations, belonging to members of the Galekorokoro clan. We can see a young woman, Matanakaka, bringing food back from the garden into the village.
URL http://books.openedition.org/pacific/docannexe/image/768/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 244k

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