Papua New Guinea – Eastern Province Wedding 1983
Where do you start! I have hundreds of slide photos taken on Fujichrome slide film with a Pentax ME-Super from 1983 whilst I was working in Mount Hagan Hospital in Papua New Guinea – these have recently been scanned. Its interesting to see how soft and vibrant these images are compared to the modern digital.
There a so many events whilst I was in Papua New Guinea from war in local coffee plantations to medical patrols to the Sepik River and mountain villages where the people had never seen a person with white skin. Looking through the images I thought I would start with a wedding I was invited to by a nurse at the hospital from Eastern Province – it was in the area (I think near Okapa) where Kuru started and so was of medical interest!
Slight background – Papua New Guinea in those days (and maybe still) was a dangerous place – there where 750 known languages (it seems there are now 823 known) the reason is that every tribe (in pigeon ‘wan tok’) spoke its own language and lived in its own mountain ‘valley’ – if you crossed the ridge you got killed and eaten! There was no intermingling. It seemed cannibalism and generations of war had taken its toll though death and kuru and two large tribes (wish I could remember the names) decided to intermarry the respective chief’s daughter and son – I was on the brides side.
The journey was a long one, East along the only road in Papua New Guinea the ‘Highlands Highway’ and then off road through the jungle for hours in a borrowed Toyota Landcruiser.
The next day I watched preparations with mumu being prepared – pig cooked in pits with hot rocks and then layers of banana leaves and then soil – the guests were to eat it with pawpaw – if only I had known – I spent the following week dealing with loads of cases of a horrible disease Pigbel Syndrome (or Enteritis Necroticans). The following morning we are awoken by drums from the next valley – loud and gradually getting nearer. I spent time taking photos of the bride and family.
Then the groom and his family turned up in a hurry armed to the teeth I got in the way as they arrived. Over the next hour a few scores were settled and seemed the wedding was off – I escaped and put some distance from the fighting. However news came all was well and given the Landcruiser was back at the wedding I returned.
I am not sure when the ‘ceremony’ took place but large poles had money attached to them and lots of dancing singing and drums filled the day.