Highlands Warriors

AtoZ2019HThis series of blog posts is part of the A to Z 2019 Blogging Challenge in which I will write snapshot memories of my early married life in the then Territory of Papua New Guinea.

Massed warriors gather

in the Goroka showground

Highland tribes with spears, arrows and axes

Highland warrior
© P Cass 1972

Feathers, beads, and arse gras[i]

Pig grease and smoke blend together

Chanel No 5 it’s not

But it is unforgettable even down the years.

Massive sing-sings with dense crowds

Dance with black mud to their ankles

Rhythmic chanting and ululations

The symphony of kundus[ii] of all sizes.

Goroka sing sing Wahgi men
Wahgi warriors wear a type of woven “skirt” and headdress. Pearl shell necklaces show wealth having been traded with coastal tribes. © P Cass 1972.

Wahgis with long skirts

beat time with their axe-heads

Goroka show
it is hard to tell if his skirt is made of tapa, cloth or woven. Around his neck he wears the skin of a cus-cus or possum. © P Cass 1972

Huli Wigmen, Mudmen from Asaro

Fire-pot men from Fore

Watabung women -beads from Job’s tears.

Thousands in one space lead to

Intertribal confrontation

Deployment of tear gas

Fences are trampled as the crowds disperse.

Our children take it all in

The covert threats absorbed

Released in screams and hysterics

At a Maori welcome in Rotorua.

GKA show firepot men
The firepot men at Goroka Show. P Cass 1972.

Tok Pisin

hamamas tru – enjoy

hambak – annoy or humbug

han bilong diwai – branch of tree

harim – listen

kiap i kam long village
Re-enacting the labour line bringing the kiap to a village. © P Cass 1972.
© P Cass 1972


[i] A bunch of leaves stuck into a type of belt which covers a man’s backside (or front).

[ii] A kundu is a drum

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