Papua New Guinea Compensation Ceremony Mt Hagen
By Brian Malone
12 Aug 2012
In the Papua New Guinea highlands community spirit extends way beyond helping out your neighbour once in a awhile,it means that you share in there sorrows as well as in their joys.
When bad blood exists between two tribes this effects everybody within each tribe,often many deaths will occur mostly involving young men in tribal fighting,often then the elders of each tribe will step in and get together and propose that the tribe agrieved or most effected should be compensated by the other.
Traditionally this compensation was made up of mostly pigs and other animals,but as Papua New Guinea goes through a mining boom this is now supplemented with cash.
The sum of the compensation to be paid is decided by elders from each tribe and is determined by the severity of the crime commited against the other tribe,or if a death has occured how many off spring the deceased had.
Often if the deceased is a student the compensation will be greatly higher as the whole tribe would have helped pay his school fees which which in turn would have been repaid in kind by the student towards bride prices and other kids school fees once he was earning a living,because of this the whole tribe will be at a loss so will expect to be compensated.
Once a compensation figure is agreed upon each and every member of the tribe will contribute,whether it be pigs,cash or just labour everybody will play their part as it effects everybody within the tribe.
Both young and old will come together in a field which can attract hundreds of curious onlookers,where a steady stream of tribesman will contribute all kinds of animals including cows,cous cous,casowerys,walalbys and even snakes but mostly pigs as these are a sign of wealth in Papua New Guinea and especially the Highlands,a man is judged how rich he is not by what car he drives but rather how many pigs he owns,these are all factors when it comes to how many wifes he will have.
The animals are tied to a stake in the ground in preparation for the compensated tribe to arrive then they will hold a peace ceromony,where the compensation will be paid and peace will be made.
Then the compensated tribe will untie all the animals and load them up onto their own vehicles and take them back to their own village where they will have a celebration and distribute the animals to their own tribe members.
For elders like Mumu Grey (pictured)such occassions brings about great joy,not only does it means his sons can now walk about withought fear of reprisals from the other tribe but it also reconfirms that the traditions that he and his ancestors held so dear have now been passed onto another generation who can use it to resolve conflicts rather than fighting which would result in more needless deaths.