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Promiscuity, play mark lively tradition

By John Pangkatana PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, June 30, 2010) – Yam harvest time can be a scary time for visitors when women carry their yams from the gardens. If you happen to cross their path, you can expect to be man-handled in the most violently or pleasurable manner... whichever way you may want to put it!

[PIR editor’s note: The Trobriand Islands are located in Milne Bay province, off the northeast tip of New Guinea Island. The annual yam harvest is customarily a time of wanton sexual behavior by women, who sometimes assault men.]

It’s yam festivity time in the Trobriand group of islands in the Milne Bay Province. Anything and everything is possible. The period of harvest (May to September) is a time for distribution, sharing and celebration in true Trobriand Island style. The erotic tapioca dance in its variety will leave you spell-bound. It is expected to be a bonanza for two days.

The locals are coming by the boat-load, visitors by ship and the Airlines PNG Dash 8 flight that is, not surprisingly, fully booked.

The revival of the once popular Yam Festival has been brought back second-time around following the demise of the Milamala Festival and now the growing in popularity of the Ugwabwena Festival on Kiriwina Island

This year’s festival is just over a week away, running from July 9 to 10. The brain-child of local businesswoman Serah Clark and owner of the Butia Lodge said their culture was the only thing that they had to make money.

"The festival is a time for celebration, dancing and generally having a good time. The Ugwabwena Festival is into its fourth year after we revived the concept in a small way three years ago," she said.

"There will be a lot of different types of dancing day and night, lots of food, yams and gardening competitions and not to forget our village style cricket," she said. "Of course we encourage our guests to take part to get a true feel of the atmosphere," she said.

Mrs. Clark agreed that the size and numbers of yams were decreasing.

"The fertility of the land is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. It may affect our cultural activities that we hold very closely as a way of life for us," she added. She said they were expecting a strong contingent of tourists.

"Apart from the activities it is a great place to getaway and relax from the busy life in the city," she said.

For her part, she has been leading the campaign to lure tourists so that they can also experience living in a village setting as well.

"This way the village people also share in the spoils that are generated from the tourist’s pocket," she added.


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