Navunaram - Custom & Culture


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The population of Navunaram is part of the Tolai ethnic group and therefore, the community functions under the traditions of the Tolai. Traditional weddings are one of the many Tolai ceremonies celebrated in Navunaram. Tolai weddings consist of three separate ceremonies over an extended period of time; each representing an important step the new couple is taking. The first is the Warkulkul (var•kool•kool), the ceremony in which the wife leaves her home and is accepted by her husband’s family. While visiting Navunaram, we had the opportunity to attend a Warkulkul. In the ceremony there is an acknowledgement of the wealth of both families and exchanges take place between the families. Following this ceremony, the bride bids farewell to her family and leaves with her husband’s family to stay with them until all the ceremonies are complete and the marriage is finalized. The wealth of the families of the bride and groom are displayed through the exchange of multiple items; the most common being tambu, bananas, and pigs. During the Warkulkul, all of these things were exchanged in some fashion. Prior to the event, the family of the bride prepared a large quantity of food for the husband’s family including Ku, a food that is made of pure coconut milk (in this case the milk of 300 coconuts). This was mixed with a large quantity of potatoes, taro, and other goods in a homemade, barrel-like basket. Along with the large basket of food, the husband’s family was given a pile of bananas nearly two meters tall and an entire pig. The size of these contributions will vary depending on how much the family is able to offer. Sometime multiple families related to the bride contribute to the offering as this is meant to be a gift from one community to another to celebrate the binding of their communities. Tambu was exchanged a few times throughout the ceremony as well. The husband’s father presented an amount of tambu agreed upon by both families as a way to illustrate the husband’s ability to provide for his wife and future family. This tambu has been acquired by the husband throughout his life. Often times these ceremonies are organized with the help of the whole community. In this case, many people from Navunaram that were not part of the immediate family contributed in any way they could by providing food or helping to prepare everything.

The members of the Navunaram community are very aware of both individual and community-wide needs and function on the basis of collectivity. The usage of vehicles is a prime example of the sense of community in Navunaram. It is common for people in Navunaram to walk from one location to another, however, vehicles are required to get to Rabaul or Kokopo to sell goods and therefore are crucial to doing business. Not everyone in Navunaram has a vehicle though because it is unnecessary with the frequent buses and the sense of community. The individuals who do own trucks or cars provide transportation for those who need it. When an individual is planning to go to town, they will often give multiple people rides. Such is the case when people need rides around the community to church or community meetings.

Navunaram’s zone two has both a community hall and a church in close proximity. At both of these locations, the community congregates once a week to discuss topics relevant to all of Navunaram. These meetings are a time for announcements to be made and for members of the community to voice their opinions regarding various issues and projects. Every member of the community is encouraged to participate in the meetings; men, women, and children alike.

Community meetings are held for many reasons one of which is addressing the welfare and maintenance of their homes. Most families in Navunaram build their homes in close proximity to the rest of their relatives. A family’s home typically consists of multiple buildings; most commonly one for living, one for cooking, and an outhouse. Since multiple generations live together, there is a strong sense of connection between all members whether they are parents, children, aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents. Each group of nuclear families functions as a unit in parenting, cooking, cleaning, farming, hunting, and all other household responsibilities.

Structurally, each house has some kind of system in place to collect and store rain water. Most commonly, pipes are linked to a gutter system on the house to direct the water into larger storage tanks. Water conservation is an integral part of everyday life in Navunaram and therefore shapes the way the community functions. Alternatives to water are used whenever possible in everyday activities. Papua New Guinea experiences dry and wet seasons and, due to its location, dry seasons for Navunaram are exceptionally dry. Droughts and rain shortages are common during that time of year making water conservation all the more important.

Each day in Navunaram follows the same basic schedule revolving around farming and agriculture. Each day is filled with planting, maintaining, or harvesting each family’s blocks and selling crops. Every member of the family aids in each task. Around nine o’clock each morning someone leaves to take the crops into town to be sold at a local market or to an exporter, while the others take care of the house and the garden. By mid-afternoon everyone is out working until dinner time. Such is the case with the majority of Navunaram families during weekdays, which makes weekends a time when all other responsibilities are taken care of.

Date Entered: June 2012