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Hiri Moale Festival will bring alive amazing Port Moresby


Papua New Guinea is reportedly a richest nation with its cultural diversity, with over 840 different languages, the country still values its cultural heritage after 43 years of independence through various national and provincial cultural festivals, events and shows nationwide.

In the amazing Port Moresby city, the popular Hiri Moale Festival will be bigger and better in 2019 with major side shows and side events leading up to the main event in September.

The Hiri Moale Festival 2019 was launched at the symbolic APEC Haus at Ela Beach whose structure is designed like the Lakatoi – huge traditional double hull canoe - used by the Motu-Koitabu during the Hiri Trade with their Gulf neighbours to the West in years gone by.

NCD Governor Powes Parkop and Motu-Koitabu Assembly Chairman Dadi Toka Junior jointly launched the festival with special guest appearance by the Hiri Hanenamo Queen 2019.

 Mr Toka said celebrations will be hosted at the newly redeveloped Ela Beach starting in July with live performances by local bands in the evenings culminating with canoe racing before the Independence Weekend in September when the Hiri Moale Festival will be held.

He said the festival will be different this year as it will be held in the evening beginning with the arrival of the Lakatois at the sun sets over Port Moresby and Ela Beach.

The highlight of the event will be the crowning of the Hiri Hanenamo (Hiri Queen).

Meanwhile, the Motu Koitabu Assembly has called for expressions of interest for the construction of lakatoi to be used for the Hiri Moale Festival.

Motu Koitabu Assembly Chairman and NCD deputy governor Dadi Toka Jr relayed the invitation during the launching of the annual Port Moresby three-month cultural event starting on July 3.

He said the festival had to be launched two months in advance to ensure ample time was given to build the lakatoi.

“A lakatoi cannot be built just overnight. It requires some time. Two months is sufficient to build it before July 3,” he added.

The assembly will identify builder/builders of the lakatoi which is the core item of the event.

NCD Governor Powes Parkop also said the festival was significant for the city residents.

“Hiri Moale is very significant to all of us. It is an event that we all in the city must embrace. This is so because we pay homage to our traditional land owners and their customs and history,” the governor said.

The traditional fear of enemies still permeates the mindsets of many tribes imprisoning many people from pursuing dreams that can develop into better progressive outcomes.

The Hiri Moale Festival means more than what the ancestors and forefathers of the Motuans dreamed about.

It now means breaking down the barriers that hold back Papua New Guinea from progressing into a prosperous and respected nation.

The success of the Hiri trade was based on the Motuan tradition of daring to explore the unknown for the collective benefit of the people.

Hanenamo is a young woman who display the right attitude, manners and behaviour and whose character is respectful of such title. She observes the rules, norms and laws of her society bringing happiness to her family.

It is from this original concept that the modern-day Hiri Hanenamo (Queen) competition is derived from.

In fact the wife of the first Hiri pioneer Edai Siabo was the first Hiri Hanenamo for her display of commitment and dedication to the rituals vital to ensuring a successful Hiri Trading voyage.

Hiri Hanenamo is not attributed to beauty alone; beauty is only one aspect of being a Hiri queen.

Elegance and grace in carrying out duties and performances are also considered. Approval and appraisal by village elders honour such a person.

Today many of these components of village life are taken into consideration by the judges during the Hiri Hanenamo Quest staged at the festivities.

A young girl is declared Hiri Hanenamo if she can display the appropriate traditional qualities to the judges.

In addition, authentic tattoo designs, bodily decoration and ornaments according to the background of the woman’s village are also taken into accounts.

The Motuan society continues to reinforce their heritage to their young women.

Women and girls from villages in the Motu Koitabu region aged between 18 and 25 are eligible to contest the Hiri-Moale festival crown.

The contestants geared up to welcome the Hiri-Moale trading boat Lakatoi, which returns from a traditional expedition in Gulf.

It shows how Motu women welcome their young men and husbands returning from a traditional trading voyage.

The Motuan men sailed westwards during the south-easterly winds known locally as the “Lahara winds”. After the trade, they returned when the winds changed eastwards. These winds are called the “Laurabada winds”.

According to oral history, the first sailing trip was led by an Edai Siabo of Boera village. Siabo was said to be inspired by a sea spirit after a fishing trip.

With this inspiration, he and his henchman built a lagatoi (double hulled canoe) and made the first trip to the Gulf coastline.

This trip and subsequent trips were necessary because during these times there was usually drought along the Motuan coastline. Return trips brought a bountiful of sago to last throughout this drought.

The actual trade would take only a few days however the return trip usually took place after 2 to 3 months.

During this long wait repairs are done on the canoes and relationships are strengthened among the traders. As a result of this long period of time away from home, it causes uncertainty back home – resulting in wives and partners of crew members re-marrying.

The return trips are usually arduous and dangerous as the wet winds brings with it storms. Lives are often lost also during these trips.

The last of such trading trips was in the late 1950’s where a Lagatoi sank just off the coast of Boera village. Several lives were lost in this mishap.

To the visitors, the festival is not only a unique cultural experience, but in the modern day context a significant festival drawing together PNG’s other diverse tribalistic traditions.

Added on top of that, it is witnessed every year also by PNG’s resident international community and those that specifically fly or cruise in to get that special feeling in witnessing that timeless traditional cultural connection.

It demonstrates the Motuan people’s proud tradition as seafarers and their connection with not only their natural environment, but their ability to interact with different tribal groups in the Gulf Province and along the Papuan coastline.

The Hiri trade as is famously known was borne out of the natural ability of the Motuans to master navigational techniques, sea craft design, observance of weather patterns and living in harmony with the spirits of the sea, the airwaves and the air.

It also showed their advance and sophistication in developing the knowledge and techniques in making durable clay pots as a major trading commodity when other Papuan coastline cultures were not that advanced.

One other very important aspect of the festival is the appreciation of the natural beauty of Motuan women.

Well-endowed not only in manner and respect for custom, the young women also display grace and elegance in the natural sway of their dances telling the stories of the adventures encountered on the long Hiri trade voyages.

Many have much to learn from this spectacular custom because it portrays respect and appreciation for other races and their own unique ways of existence with their fellowmen.

It stands for the pursue of new horizons be it social, diplomacy, education, sharing of technology, knowledge and skills and most importantly the principles and ability of being able to communicate in unity the language of peace among different tribes.

To book accommodations and tour packages in amazing Port Moresby, send email via: pngattractions@gmail.com

* Peter S. Kinjap is a freelance writer and a blogger, email: pekinjap@gmail.com 


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