Visit to the East Sepik Province of Papua New Guinea 16/5/09 to 14/6/09

 

Liklik stua long ambrela bilong Rhonda, ples Christina mekim wok.

Liklik stua long ambrela bilong Rhonda, ples Christina mekim wok.

The main purpose of this visit was to catch up with old friends and acquaintances and with this in mind the trip was most successful. I was provided with excellent accommodation in Wewak by my friends Rhonda and Peter Johnson.

In the Windjammar, Golf Club, Airport Lodge and Yacht Club it was amiable to see Steve, Chris and Sir Hugo again while meeting new drinkers and friends. It was great to be a reserve for the swim in the Sepik Ironman Day on the 7th of June and in the evening to re-establish my friendship with Sir Michael Somare to whom I presented a copy of my novel: Sepik Blu Longpela Muruk, the title of which seemed to amuse him. After a dinner with Sir Michael, Peter Johnson and Don Fox where Peter, Michael and I spent the time reminiscing about Sepik characters of forty years and more ago. Sir Michael said goodnight and wished me a pleasant and happy visit and passed his regards onto to my wife, Deborah.

Intellectual discussions with Ralf Stuttgen were both illuminating and edifying.  A publication of these will appear shortly.

Perhaps the highlight of my sojourn was seeing friends, colleagues and families from the old days in Angoram. A patrol up the Keram River to Kekten Village where I saw William Batak, a skilled outboard motor driver with Malaria Service in the 60s and 70s was memorable.

In Angoram, Peter Sap. Peter Ettu and Eva Waramapi and their families were overjoyed to see me as I was overjoyed to see them. I went down memory lane with Daniel Gurum, with talks about Bob Mackie, Norm Liddle and Jim McKinnon. Raphael Maimba gave me a lot of assistance. It was a pleasure to see John and Cecilia Talai again. Fr Lawrence Arockiaraj got a marriage certificate for a person who now lives in Canada and was married in Angoram in 1956 from the parish records.

I was gratified to learn that Tom Lek Nogut was still living on Wewak Hill with his long-suffering wife, Christina and, was in comparatively good health. Tom himself is something of a mixed bag with many loyal relations and others not so fond of him who describe him as an arsehole. When I did my own big toe in I wondered if Tom had worked posin on me as retribution for my ridicule of his name, Leg Nogut.

I’m writing this piece with Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending playing in the background and I’m reminded of the extraordinary qualities of the Sepik people. They mainly have so little in material terms and yet offer you all that they have. We ascended with our memories from the past. William Batak submerging himself in the river out of respect and thanks for me returning to see him in his home village of Kekten. Dorothea Klam of Kambot Village presenting me with a carving. Discussions with Eva, formerly known as Ipa, about her battles for women’s rights and reminiscences about the old Angoram days. Abraham, Thomas, Peter Sap and Peter Ettu, past employees of Malaria Service, all enlivened the days with stories of old. Theresia Kavi and Olive Ettu presenting me with netbags they had made, this and many other stories of unsolicited gifts to me could be told. Joseph and Josephine Joma were as always most welcoming.

Years ago before I came to PNG I often wondered why the Sepik River and its people were so often in the mind of my brother-in-law, Kevin Walls. Kevin serviced with distinction in the area during the war, winning a MC in 1945. Perhaps the mighty river and its people seep into the being of those who drink of its waters or in Pidgin:

Wara Sepik go insait long blut bilong mipela.

My return to chilly Sydney was considerably warmed by the welcome of my wife, Deborah and by learning  the pleasing news that Peter Johnson, my host in Wewak, had been awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

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8 Comments

  1. Jamie McKinnon said,

    Hello, I know this might seem odd… but I did a google search on my name and He was Jim McKinnon… the same Jim McKinnon you’re talking about I’m sure of it… he passed away a few years ago… he got alzheimers when I was six… I’m sorry I just would really like to peice some of his life together that I never got the privelige of hearing first hand from him… I’d appreciate it a huge amount if you’d be kind enough to perhaps email me or something and maybe tell me about him… I loved him so much… but I only really got a few stories from mum… anyways I’m writing a sob story here, I was just hoping that if you did know him at all or if you knew anyone who did who wouldn’t mind taking a few minutes to just tell me about him.

    -sorry about the obtuse comment… I guess I’m a little more emotional that I first thought…

    -Jae 🙂

  2. David Wall said,

    Dear Jamie

    Yes, I knew your father well in the old days in Angoram. He had a saw mill and trading businesses in the town, also a gold mine in the mountains behind the Ramu River, for which place he was a member of the House of Assembly from 1968-72.

    Jim was in the 7th Division during the war and served in North Africa, the Far East and PNG. He was the regimental boxing champion.

    All in all your father was a remarkable man.

    My friend, Peter Johnson,in Wewak, knew your father and on my visits there we often talked about him.

    Should you like to give me a call in Sydney my telephone number is: 02 95505053

    With all good wishes

    David

  3. simon namis said,

    Hi David, i somehow stumbled upon your stories about the sepik. They are nostalgic and brings back memories growing up in Wewak particularly the wewak hill area and the old corrigan motors (i think ) next to wewak hotel. my father used to work at corrigan as a motor mechanic assistant then.
    would you by any chance have or know someone who may have old colonial days photos of wewak town( china town ) or wewak hill area which I could have access to?

    let me assure you that I will continue to follow this Blogg as it relates and means so much and dearly to me.I am also from the sepik.

    Simon Namis

    • deberigny said,

      Simon, good to hear from you – most of the photos I do have are on the blog but not old Wewak shots which I do not have. I’ve just returned from the Sepik and I’ll soon put some photos online. Dave

  4. Anonymous said,

    Hi Dave very good and thanks for taking the time to a least send a reply.
    I am in Jakarta now but i will wait eagerly for those shots. Simon

  5. Anonymous said,

    OK Excellent dave

  6. p baker said,

    go to f/b maybe there could be something there wewak reunion, etc i live there also mr corrigan ask my father if he was interested, he work at the power house.

    • simon namis said,

      Hi Mr.Baker, good to hear that you also lived in Wewak about the same time as I did growing up.I would appreciate it if you could give me more details please. Simon Namis

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