Plotinus in the Jungle

Home » Adventures in PNG » The 2nd Annual Jiwaka Pig-Killing Festival

The 2nd Annual Jiwaka Pig-Killing Festival

No pigs were harmed in the making of this post

No pigs were harmed in the making of this post

The girls and I, plus Miriam, our neighbor Anna and her daughter Bernardette, attended this festival on Papua New Guinea’s independence day Sept. 16. Traditionally, this was a coming-of-age ceremony known as Kongar, but now it is mostly a local weeklong singsing culminating in a big mumu. The feast was to be on Friday, the last day, so there were actually no pigs being killed while we were there at all.

Early in the day- more spectators and dancers arrived later

Early in the day- more spectators and dancers arrived later

There were a decent number of dancers in traditional garb, an official platform with announcements about “pasin blong tumbuna” (the customs of the ancestors) being made, and what Anna identified as a “haus tambran” – a “spirit house”.

Still, these decorations are a little creepy

These decorations are a little creepy

She clarified that the people around here are Christians and that she doesn’t think any actual spirits are inside- it’s more of a historical exhibit of “pasin blong tumbuna”.

 

Carvings of fish and pigs, mostly

Carvings of masks, fish, and pigs, mostly

The landowner, one of the festival organizers, let me look inside. It mostly seemed to be a repository for wood carvings in the traditional style, plus some traditional weapons, and was clearly too crowded with odds and ends to be any kind of actual pagan worship space.

While retaining the name of the old coming-of-age ceremony, the Kongar Festival now seems to fall into the category of the modern PNG singsing, with groups of competing dancers from differing areas of the country.

There were local groups, from both sides of the river valley.

The traditional Jiwaka headdress, as pictured on our provincial flag

The traditional Jiwaka headdress, as pictured on our provincial flag

Anastasia was singing along with this group

Anastasia knew lots of the songs, but will wait until next week to dress up for the competing singsing on the other side of the river

This is a common dance for older women to do

This is a common dance for older women to do

No one could tell me what the meaning of the object they shake above their heads was

I think the bamboo strips they’re waving around symbolize numbers of pigs

Participation by all ages

Participation by all ages

There was also a large contingent from Mt. Hagen, with their characteristic red face paint.

Making a dramatic entrance

Making a dramatic entrance

In terms of good backdrops for photographs, this was much better than the Hagen Show

In terms of good backdrops for photographs, this was much better than the Hagen Show

I and my companions could not identify this man. His triangular pole he carried around had feathers that flapped like bird wings, and he seemed to be a free agent of sorts– he was the only one, and roamed around from group to group.

He did stop long enough to pose, which was kind

He did stop long enough to pose, which was kind

By far the most popular group was from Chimbu province, performing the traditional courtship ritual of “tanim het karim leg”, with a mixed group of men and women sitting with their legs crossed over their neighbors’. Instead of the actual nose-rubbing that courting couples would do, they instead made exaggerated head waggling movements, emphasized still further by the feathers on their heads.

Crowds several people deep would gather to watch them

Crowds several people deep would gather to watch them

This was Tabitha’s first singsing!

She was fascinated. "Colour and movement, colour and movement" as Bishop Doug likes to say.

She was fascinated. “Colour and movement, colour and movement” as Bishop Doug likes to say.

This lady kept walking by and smiling at us, so I thought I'd ask for a picture

Jiwaka Meri

We’ve now been here for over a year, and it was nice to reflect on how far we’ve come– I could identify the different regions by their costumes, we could recognize people we knew from church dressed up in their bilas, and I could hold conversations in Tok Pisin. Happy independence, PNG.

I really love this picture!

Praising God and rejoicing to be Papua New Guinea!

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