Creative Land: Place and Procreation on the Rai Coast of Papua New Guinea

By James Leach | Go to book overview

Introduction

The Rai Coast

In December 1993, I arrived in Madang on the tropical north coast of Papua New Guinea, with the idea of finding a field site somewhere in the group of islands lying off that coast in the Vitiaz Strait. From Madang, the obvious choice was Arop, or ‘Long Island’, a destination I had picked out while still in England. Arop lies around 40 km from the Rai Coast, and 80 km from Madang town. I was already changing my plans though.

Through introductions made by my new friend Moses (who worked for the town council and thus knew many people)1 it appeared transport to and from the island was erratic, or expensive, or both. Saidor, situated along the coast and nearer to the island, gave me something to aim for. Perhaps there was transport from there. If not, at least I would not be kicking my heels in this strange mixture of a town, which was unsettling me by its combination of expensive hotels, quiet pretty streets lined with Bougainvillaea and Frangipani, intense heat, and unfathomable mixtures of people. The latter was what I had come for, yet this seemed a frontier town, located between the familiar model of northern Australia, and something inaccessible, embodied by the majority of the people I saw there. The Rai Coast had also been of interest in my pre-field reading, and anxious to achieve something, I made up my mind to visit it.

With Moses’ help, I arrived on the right bit of concrete wharf in Madang’s extensive and many-bayed harbour to board the MV Nara to Saidor. Moses had telephoned the District Administrator (D.A.) in Saidor on my behalf the previous day, and warned him of my arrival. I had no idea of the kind of journey involved, nor of how long it would take. Being unused to the rhythm of such journeys (something that was to change soon enough) I had armed myself only with a bottle of mineral water, a novel, and a sleeping roll. I expected to arrive in Saidor, discuss my proposed research with the D.A., and perhaps even make it back to Madang by light aircraft the same day.

-1-

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Creative Land: Place and Procreation on the Rai Coast of Papua New Guinea
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Maps, Figures, Tables, and Photographs ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Notes on the Text xv
  • Preface xvii
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter One - Process and Kinship 21
  • Chapter Two - Residence History and Palem 33
  • Chapter Three - Marrying Sisters 57
  • Chapter Four - Gardens, Land, and Growth 91
  • Chapter Five - Birth, Emergence, and Exchange 127
  • Chapter Six - Spirit, Flesh, and Bone 159
  • Chapter Seven - Places and Bodies, Landscape and Perception 193
  • Chapter Eight - Creative Land 211
  • Glossary 219
  • References 221
  • Index 229
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