Mankimasta extraordinaire, friend, gentleman – Kami Raymundus of Torembi Village

May 10, 2013 at 1:25 am (Angoram, Commentary, East Sepik District, Kami Raymundus, Maprik, Wewak)

Dave & Kami, Dreikikir, 1963

Dave & Kami, Dreikikir, 1963

kami,Torembi Village

kami,Torembi Village

Kami with his children in Torembi, late 1970s

Kami with his children in Torembi, late 1970s

“… I have never known finer gentlemen than some well-born Malays whom I am proud to call my friends.”

Thus spoke Warburton, one of Somerset Maugham’s characters in his story: The Outstation.

Replace ‘well-born Malays’ with Sepiks and the above reflects exactly my thoughts.

In a story of mine: The phone rings!, tells of the reappearance of my late brother, James, in a dream. He talks to me of the afterlife and he mentions: “Oh, I almost forgot to tell that your houseboy, Kami, from Papua New Guinea wondered how you were. He was telling me he had received a lot of credit for the thousands of cups of tea he had made for you. Anyhow, he’s doing well now. But he is a bit worried about his family in Torembi, a village in the Sepik.”

For some time my wife, Deborah, has been saying to me that most of the stories I write about PNG always seem to predominantly feature expats. In many of my narratives, I perhaps, come through unapologetically as a colonial. I hope I’m a little more than just that. I was once referred to as a terrible lefty, so maybe there’s a little more to me than just a colonial!

Then again, I can hear my readers saying, that’s what you are. There you are writing about your mankimasta, if that’s not colonial, I don’t know what is!

Fr Mihalic in his Dictionary defines mankimasta A European’s personal boy, a valet. Whatever the impression I’ve given of myself in the past I hope the respect and regard I have for Kami somehow redeems the reputation I may have in the minds of some.

I suspect Kami would have been born in Torembi Village during the war, and baptised after the close of hostilities and the reestablishment of the Catholic Mission in the area. His baptismal name, Raymundus, the Latin version of Raymond, indicates he was probably christened by a missionary from Europe.

He had very little formal education, maybe one or two years in primary school. In spite of this he had some rudimentary skills in reading and writing. He had a very logical mind and he was excellent in fixing things around the house.

I clearly remember first employing him in 1962 in his village. At the time, I was stationed at Maprik, and I was on a routine Malaria Service patrol and let it be known that I wanted  to find a mankimasta. Shortly after Kami presented himself. At first I thought he looked rather disheveled and I favoured another applicant, but fortunately the other fellow decided he didn’t want the job, and I was left with Kami.

So Kami for a pittance came to work for me, and stayed over ten years with me giving excellent service, and I hope in time becoming my friend.

From what I can remember it was a seven days a week job for Kami, cooking and cleaning for me. One of his specialties was what I called donkers, which were really fried scones.

He was with me in Maprik, Dreikikir, Wewak and Angoram, and I’m sure he knew more about me than I knew myself.

He had the most admirable of dispositions and I can never remember him once losing his cool. After some years he decided he wanted to get married and he had a young woman in mind from Torembi, Anna – Meri bilong ples kisim save long skul. What this meant was that Anna came from Torembi and she had a few years of primary school. Anna and Kami were duly married according to village custom, and all seemed fine for some time. They had healthy children. Unfortunately in time Anna developed some mental problems and poor Kami had some trying times with her.

I remember one incident in 1973 in Angoram. This was shortly after I myself was married to my wife, Deborah. Anna appeared in our house with a bush knife chasing Kami. I was away at this time. Over the whole event, Kami was more concerned with the safety of Deborah, and he secured her away in a closed bedroom, and then he gently dealt with Anna and disarmed her. After this he talked with Deborah and asked her to explain to me what had happened and to tell me that he would have to take Anna back to Torembi. Deborah was most impressed with his wisdom and approach. She said to me at the time that Kami might be uneducated but he was certainly very intelligent!

Later in 1973 Deborah got a position in Moresby as Press Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly. I was also posted to Moresby.

The last time I saw Kami was in 1978 in Torembi when I made a return visit to the Sepik. Anna was still in the terminology of the place longlong!

In the 1980s, I had a letter from a priest in Torembi in answer to one from me enquiring about Kami, telling me that Kami was suffering from severe asthma and breathing problems. Shortly after this he died.

One of the few pleasures Kami had in life was his love of smoking. I suspect that Kami died from lung cancer.

If by any chance some of Kami’s children or relations should read this, I would love to hear from them.

In life we all meet various people of various qualities – some great and some poor and others nothing much at all. To me, Kami was a man of great qualities, and to him, I have an unending debt of gratitude.

Kami, farewell and thank you!




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