During a recent visit to a more remote coastal location of Papua New Guinea, it was fascinating to see that in the shadows of a mobile phone tower, young kids were playing a simple target shooting game on the beach which their parents, grandparents and probably their grandparents parents would have played.
When travelling to a project location for work I often try to find a book to read on the trip that gives interesting insights to the location that are otherwise not commonly elicited in the course of the studies we are conducting, be it Alan Moorehead’s Cooper Creek (Cooper Basin, South Australia), Teun Voeten’s How De Body? (Sierra Leone) or even Tim Flannery’s Throwim Way Leg (PNG Highlands).
On a recent visit to Orokolo Bay in Papua New Guinea to undertake social mapping and ecosystem services studies for a petroleum project I took a copy of F.E. Williams’ 1940 publication Drama at Orokolo: the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Elema, which on recommendation I found at the University of PNG bookshop in Port Moresby…and what a treasure trove that place is
The book describes a children’s game of competitive target-shooting where the kids line up opposite each other about 10m or so apart and throw balls of sand at the opposing team’s row of carefully constructed sandmen. The first team to wipe out all evidence of the opposing team’s sandmen wins.
What was particularly striking was how accurate the kids were with their throws…no doubt training for future hunting expeditions.
Colour photo by Andy Pym (2016). Black and white photos (circa 1937) reproduced from F.E. Williams, Drama at Orokolo: the Social and Ceremonial Life of the Elema, first edition published in 1940, reprinted 2016.