by Allan Ango, Komo, March 2016

Tree came first, man came later. Trees originated from Hewari Kambaiya, which is on the Strickland River. The first tree was a kiabu 1 tree, a very special tree. From that same location the first man came some time later. He came from the same place as the tree. After the man the bai 2 fruit tree came and the balimu 3 shade tree came. The balimu tree is a bitter tree, it smells and has a bitter taste. The bai tree bears fruit. Then the first woman came and her name was Tiripi. The first man and woman were like humans but not perfect like today. They were like animals, like spirits. They came naked towards the tree and they were red and hot- skinned. The woman stayed with the man. The man’s name was Kiabukulu. The first tree was kiabu and the first man was Kiabukulu. Hunabe is the son of Kiabukulu and Tiripi. Hunabe’s son is called Dumbirumbi. 4 He started to form the land and the mountains. Dumbirumbi’s son is Hela.

Hela had four sons and one daughter: Huli, Duna, Obena, Duguba and Wana Hewa. The people used to go up to the sky. They sacrificed so that they could fly up to the sky. The old life flew up to the sky and new people came down from the sky to re-populate. Hela is dead but new life formed after him. There are five sky bridges: Mt Kebu, Daluyaandaga Datogo, Mt Lagabe, Tirini Yaguni and Kumbibara. Mt Kebu has a ladder to the sky. At Mt Kebu there is an underground river that contains healing water. The cloud comes over the mountain and a ladder made from cloud forms there. The kiabu tree is a shady tree and has a lot of leaves and less branches. Only the branches from this tree went up to the sky. The people saw land on the other side where the kiabu tree lives so they stepped onto the ladder and went up and made a new life in the sky. Every afternoon beautiful birds come and the clouds come over. The birds are called Kilaba, 5 Kaigulu, 6 and Urubu gawe. 7

At Daluyaandaga Datogo there were several laws. One law was that nobody was allowed to eat pigs at that place. A woman was eating a pig at this location so all the people were banned from flying up to the sky. The sky bridge was pulled away so that the people could not travel up to the sky. The people were then left alone. This sky bridge is at Mt Timakali. The people became angry and cut the mountain down with a stick. After the mountain was cut down people from Pureni, Tari, Delaba, Idiawi, Buta, Luguni, Kulu, Nogoli, Undubi and Angore went to the sky bridge at Mt Timakali. The law for this sky bridge was do not look back, but they did look back and the bridge was pulled away and they all fell and died. Some of them became stones. This place is called Kumuali Homatoma. 8 Hibiria Kebuanda 9 looks down upon this.

There was a sky bridge at Mt Lagabe. At this place people were given rules not to eat pigs before they set off to the sky bridge. A woman ate pig intestines which was not allowed so most of the people fell from the sky bridge. So this woman got a big stick and said, “Why did you take my bridge away? Put the bridge back.” But the bridge was gone so she became angry and smashed the mountain down and now the mountain is wrecked by the woman’s stick.

There is a sky bridge at Mt Kumbibara. This is a two-way sky bridge: one goes up and the other comes down on either side of the mountain. The men were not allowed to excrete near that place. One man’s ignorance caused the bridge to fall down and those on the bridge fell down and died. The man and those behind him were all left alone on the mountain. The collapse of the sky bridges means that the people are no longer able to live forever.

The Tirini Yaguni clan are the sons of the dindi pongoneyi 10 at the Kebuanda called Hewari Kambaiya, which is in Irane, Lake Kobiago. This is the place where all life emerged and went to Mt Kebu. There is a statue of the mother of Jesus there and a row of crucifixes at Yuagunianda. Perhaps they crucified Jesus there. On top of the mountain there are so many crucifixes made of stone. The statue of the mother of Jesus is also made of stone there. This is where the formation of life began at Mt Kebu and from where it was dispersed.

The first generations were gone but a man and a woman came to Mt Kebu and realised that they had originated from that mountain. The tree came first and afterwards the first man came, then the bai and balimu trees and then the first woman came. After the woman the first pig came, which was a white pig called nogo paratambuga. Two types of bilums, urunu and aranu, came from Mt Kepu. These bilums contained kina shells. So the first generations had gone but the new generations worshipped and sacrificed. The white pig came from Yagunianda and they came and stayed on Mt Kebu. On their way to Mt Kebu they slept on the road where they smashed the ground down. Then they left Mt Kebu and stayed at Tambuguanda where they dug a hole in the mud to lie down and sleep. From Tambuguanda they came to a place called Dindi Gamawini Dagabuaanda where there is a lake and a footprint on the stone. This place is Gelote Ira Kelo. Here the two clans called Kogoma and Dagabua bred and multiplied the pigs and the pigs spread all over Hela. The Obena clans bred the pigs and brought them to the Huli side. Then Obena’s pigs went to the Bebeneanda Kebeanda for sacrifice. The three Obena pigs are called Kipikaya, Yambikale and Kaikendewa. Kipikaya has many crippled fingers. Yambikale has folded fingers. Kaikendewa has long nails.

The sky bridges are the routes for birds. Tree kangaroos and possums and human beings follow the birds along these routes. When they followed the birds they found that the sky bridges went even further into the heavens. Now possums, birds and tree kangaroos come down on the sky ladders and they don’t fly, rather they fall on the ground and sleep. They just rest and sleep on the gardens and near the houses for a few hours or a whole day before they fly away. I don’t catch them, I just let them sleep. Those who don’t know might disturb them, but I know that they have come down from the heavens so I let them sleep. When I approach them they growl and make sounds and I realise that they fell down from heaven.

(As recorded by Michael Main, “Until Hela Becomes a City”, The Western Encounter with Huli Modernity, A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of the Australian National University. Canberra, April, 2020. Prologue.)

  1. Podocarpus bracteatus []
  2. Castanopsis acuminatissima []
  3. Melastoma affine []
  4. Translates as “moving and shaking” or earthquake []
  5. Possibly kele kele as given by Laurence Goldman, “Talk Never Dies: an analysis of disputes among the Huli” Unpublished PhD thesis (University College, London, 1981); Trichoglossus haematodus; Rainbow lorikeet []
  6. Unknown. Possibly kurega as given by ibid.; either Charmosyna josefinae or Charmosyna pulchella; Josephine’s lorikeet or Little red lorikeet []
  7. Charmosyna papou; Papuan Lorikeet []
  8. Homatoma = cemetery []
  9. Kebuanda, a place of ritual and sacrifice []
  10. Lit. land root man. An hereditary form of leadership that involves the generational passing down of detailed cosmological and macro-genealogical information. []