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Sep 6, 2017

Pukpuk-The Sepik Pride

A crocodile dancer
A crocodile dancer

The Sepik River is home to one of world’s largest freshwater crocodiles and saltwater crocodile population. Crocodile a symbolism of strength, power and manhood with well-articulated legend and beliefs forms a strong cultural connection in the Sepik river region.

The crocodile holds a significant resemblance of a society that is strong and powerful that prides itself of a people who are absolved to their heritage. Haus Tambarans (sacred men’s house) a manifesto of strength and account of a culture that has deeper cultural links. Men gained strength to lead and discipline their communities within the men’s house that often associated with the crocodile.

Crocodiles and river gods are an extraordinaire phenomenon that intensifies the potency of manhood. The initial initiation process of taking young boys into the men’s house and having their back skin cut like crocodile illustrates the sacred and cultural link of a people with physical and spiritual ambiance.

Crocodile and Sepik River communities is a very distinguish cultural connection. A cultural society which is very much connected to the river which serves to hold a rich cultural diversity of knowledge, beliefs and systems of a people considered to be having pride in their own cultural background and the crocodile.

Not only is the Sepik River sustain humanity but because of its beauty and very strange make up. Yambon gates a natural feature of two rock walls forming mountains on both sides of the river. The water flows around the rocks then make a full swirl before flowing again. This is a natural scenario that complements the value of large natural stream of waters.  

Sepik River a holistic sanctuary of life for its humanity and all its living inhabitants. The Sepik River the ideal vegetation for sago palms and a consistent supply fish and other food supply from the river has been the sustainable diet for the local people. The river gives life to thousands of communities all characterized by their own holistic make up of their tribes, clans and villages holistically and closely knitted to the river.  

The local livelihood is very much influenced by the river. The river is the safety net that holds together a huge region characterized by its own geographic features and cultural make up. Crocodile adds a certain kind of feature that reflects a group of people who are assertive and very bold in defending their heritage.

The Sepik River one of the world’s largest river systems and home to world’s mammal species with its Flora & Fauna is under threat if the mine undergoes operation in 2018. If you want to save the mighty Sepik River please donate now to Land –Land Justice for Papua New Guinea project now!

Deep crocodile skin cutting ritual for men
Deep crocodile skin cutting ritual for men
Man & haus tambaran a holistic bond
Man & haus tambaran a holistic bond
Aug 2, 2017

Bismarck Brilliance- An inherent insight

Coordinates-Solwara 1 Duke of York & west coast NI
Coordinates-Solwara 1 Duke of York & west coast NI

Duke of York Islands and West coast New Ireland are two very grave areas chosen as the sight of the proposed Solwara 1 Project world’s first deep-sea mining yet showing a very rich cultural and spiritual tradition to the sea.

Duke of York Islands, a group of islands located in East New Britain Province. They are found in St George Channel between New Britain and New Ireland and forms part of the Bismarck Archipelago. The largest island of Duke of York the other two small islands of Mioko Palpal in the south and Makada in the north.

Duke of York Islands remains the transit point for local seafarers and people travelling by boat from west coast New Ireland to the nearest town of Kokopo in East New Britain. This sea route taken by the travelling public is largely inclined to the lack of basic government services and infrastructure in mainland New Ireland and being located further away from Kavieng the provincial center and in accessing Kokopo is not an exception.

These exquisite and remote isles in the center of the proposed Solwara 1 project continuously strengthen their cultural and spiritual connection to the sea to ban Seabed Mining. The Kinavai ceremony (Duke of York) a traditional parade of the tolai sacred society the Dukduks, traditional mask dancers on the sea and the traditional shark callers from Messi village west coast New Ireland are living paradigms of people who are culturally alive and intimately connected to the sea. These practices are inherent thus making it infinitive for science to separate the local cultures from its spirituality that is tied to the sea.

Sharing the same scenario in geographical location within the Solwara 1 project and having similar close cultural ties the coastal benefit areas (West Coast New Ireland and Duke of York Islands remain a crucial center for a local holistic investigative analysis of the Solwara 1 Project.

Investigative Analysis through Conceptual and Participatory processes has provided a substantive background yet very clear and concise local knowledge.

Locals including men women, young people, children and elders in Duke of York Island were asked to create a risk mapping; write down problems associated with Deep Sea Mining on cards, then rank them accordingly.

Inclusive of the participatory process locals did an illustration of their fishing grounds and mapping out a natural ecosystem that has consistently provided for their livelihood for thousands of years.

Another investigative approach the Conceptual process (developing mental models) of hazard mapping through verbal opinions clearly describes a very comprehensive society. For example to estimate and draw/represent the depth of the ocean, how it looks and what will be the risks of Deep Sea Mining.

Locals together with volunteers assembled a participatory art sculpture on the seaward part of the island facing the sea route of sea travellers from West coast New Ireland. The construction of sculptures stands as a signpost to protest, educate and tell people about the risks of seabed mining; a very westernized fashion yet very informative and effective.

Conceptual and Participatory Art is convincible for the local peoples of West Coast New Ireland and Duke of York Islands because it is practically and theoretical proven that the people are closely connected with the nature and the surrounding environment; the scientific knowledge of the eco-system is more proven and understandable through their daily experiences. The people’s experiences and local knowledge of the sea and the associate environment practically weighs out bold propositions by senior officials in respective authorities most of them seem to be pressed into uncertainty. A local ordinary person with a vast understanding of his or her local environment is better off in telling changes in the ocean natural system and how it influences the society’s hence sea bed mining needs more grounding knowledge in theory and practice.

Duke of York Islanders and New Irelanders from the west coast stand together with hands crossed to BAN Deep Sea Mining in their waters. Their opposition is well presented in their initial view and is further replicated, about and almost all of Duke of York Islands and especially west coast New Ireland.  

Want to save our people's livelihood and the ocean and help us BAN Deep Sea Mining donate now to Sharing the Future- Young Papua New Guineans!

Participatory Risk Mapping-Women & Children
Participatory Risk Mapping-Women & Children
Locals & Volunteers-Sculpture assembling
Locals & Volunteers-Sculpture assembling
Illustration of local ecosystem
Illustration of local ecosystem
Tolai Kinavai Ceremony-Sea Parade
Tolai Kinavai Ceremony-Sea Parade
Jun 5, 2017

Forewarnings Down the Fly River

BRG
BRG's team of Sepik landowners on their journey

Forewarnings down the Fly River”

With the support of our generous donors, the Bismarck Ramu Group (BRG) is happy to announce that we have successfully sent a team of West Sepik landowners to the harshly polluted Fly River. In doing so, the landowners were able to witness with their own eyes the destruction caused by the Ok Tedi mine tailings. What they observed energized them to continue their fight against the construction of the notorious Frieda mine which threatens the integrity of their own mighty Sepik River.

The Ok Tedi Mine is an open pit gold and copper mine in the Western Province of Papua New Guinea and is considered by many to have caused one of the most catastrophic man-made environmental disasters in the world. Careless and cut-rate waste disposal has resulted in over 2 billion tons of cyanide laced toxic discharge flowing directly into the Ok Tedi River over the past three decades. Consequently, the pollution has fed into the Fly River, the largest river in all of Papua New Guinea, devastating over 1000 kilometers of previously pristine and virgin jungle. Not only has the environmental impact been immense, but the mine has destroyed the homes and lives of thousands of villagers downstream.

After a long two days of travel, the Sepiks were first brought to the village of Nigerum along the highway towards where the Ok Tedi River dumps into the Fly. What they found shocked them. The communities cannot use the river for drinking, fishing, or washing because of the heavy sedimentation buildup. Instead they must travel kilometers inland to find clean food and water. As a result, many of the people are malnourished and sick, unable to effectively feed their families or even themselves. “These people are clearly hungry but have nothing to eat,” one of the Sepiks noted.

The Sepiks proceeded down the Fly River to Karengo. As their boat slowly moved with the current, the water was described as milky and cloudy. Along the way, they witnessed 5-6 kilometers of dead jungle with no signs of life. When they met with the Karengo villagers, it was explained to them that due to the heavy sedimentation buildup, the water level rises quickly during heavy rains, in turn waterlogging the surrounding rainforest with the river’s toxins. Because of this, the villagers have lost their gardens and sources of timber for shelter, as well as their staple food, sago. One of the Sepiks remarked, “You can feel the environment; it feels like death.” These communities, like the Sepiks, are not driven by money in the economic sense that westerners are familiar with, but instead, they derive their wealth from the richness of their land. However, because of large scale development these people have lost everything.

Officials claimed that development of the Ok Tedi mine was supposed to bring jobs and welfare to the indigenous people. However, as the Sepiks saw for themselves, these benefits failed to trickle down to the more rural communities. As the pollution began to decimate their precious resources, native peoples began to migrate to more urban settings. Doctors and teachers left, deserting their clinics and schools. Stripped of their food, water, health, and education, those that remained have been slowly relocating to Kiunga to, ironically, find work with the mine that has so shattered their lives. In fact, many of the villages the Sepiks stumbled upon along the desolate Fly were found to be abandoned.

This widespread environmental and social destruction opened the eyes of the Sepik landowners as they face a similar threat to their own waters. Officials at the proposed Frieda gold mine in West Sepik are preparing to start development on the mighty Sepik River as soon as possible. Reportedly, the mine will be three times the size of the Ok Tedi with a potential to do much more harm as the Sepik river is significantly smaller than the Fly. Emotional, angry, and upset with what they observed, the Sepik landowners left the Western Province with a strengthened commitment to stop the construction of Frieda mine. As they themselves derive their livelihood from the river, they will do whatever it takes to prevent their precious land from becoming uninhabitable.

The Sepik landowners have been swift in preparing a strategy. Within 2 days of returning to Wewak, they will present to the 6 district members of parliament on what they saw. If this plan of action fails, they will continue with protesting the provincial government and spreading awareness throughout the region, mobilizing rural communities to join the fight. Despite great odds, the Sepiks are hopeful for the future of their river, reporting confidence in the resources they have to work with.

Want to help support the Sepiks in protecting the sanctity of their river? Donate to BRG’s “Land is Life” Project now!

Mine tailings in the Ok Tedi River
Mine tailings in the Ok Tedi River
Family preparing to migrate to Kiunga for food
Family preparing to migrate to Kiunga for food
Kadinge students protesting Frieda mine
Kadinge students protesting Frieda mine
 
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