Banner And Menu.jpg (33003 bytes)



Aguminga Village, 6 May 1962

By late afternoon through valley mist
the Kukukuku arrive at the camp site
in a clearing at the highest saddle of the ridge:
three females and five males: all furtive
two of the women with blackened faces
in mourning for recently dead husbands.
I buy taro from the bark-cloaked bowmen
and pay in beads, razor blades, matches and tobacco.

After trading, I arrange a demonstration
to show how five rounds fired from a rifle
pass with ease through the trunk of a tree.
The men tighten their grip
on their blackpalm bows
and inhale sharply.
They nod and are impressed by the power
of the Army’s weapons as the report of the firing
echoes down the ridgeline towards Kerema and the sea.

By next morning the bowmen and their women
have travelled off the track to a remote clearing
where they tip their birdhunting arrows
with the cartridge cases I gifted to them
and speed blunt shafts into the crown of a kwila tree.
They bring down two brilliant birds of paradise:
stunned only, and with the plumage undamaged
thanks to the help of European technology.

kwila: ironwood tree (prob. Intsia bijuga)

High Mountainous Country, 2005

Technical Assistance.jpg (25485 bytes)