by Ron Meshanko
Bayebaye is a dema 1 which is a type of transformative power, a life form which is sacrificed, often of its own will, to give the abundance of life to humans:
Bayebaye was a good looking boy, the good, good person (Bayebaye = perfect) 2 that was killed as a sacrifice, so that his blood would make the land fertile once and for all. He was the only son of a Duna woman who had a special role in the dindi gamu rites. When the woman came to the Bepenete gebeanda at Wabia, she told the ritual leader to fake an accident and cut the small boy’s finger as they cut the pigs for sacrifice. They were to make a small cut into Bayebaye’s finger so that his blood would make the land fertile.
When the mother went to help the other women clean the pig’s intestines, Baya Baya was betrayed by Kolipa Koli. He said the boy’s mother had said: “Kill my son. The more blood the better the land will be.” Kolopa Koli, Tuku Kewai, Apu Awiria, Hupe Yape, Pai Taro and other members of the Yarini clan of Wabia cut Bayebaye up and divided his bodily parts among all the Huli tribes.
The mother found out what happened and she cried bitterly. The Huli leaders chased her out of Bepenete. Many raped and insulted her as she walked home. Only the Tami clan helped her. She prophesized that this tribe would increase while all the other tribes would die off. 3
Now the Tami tribe is the largest single clan in the Huli land. The gebeanda at Bepenete has taken up the theme of repentance for killing Bayebaye. From that time on they have been asking Datagaliwabe for his forgiveness to lift the prophecy. This happened five generations ago.
The bodily parts of Bayebaye were buried throughout the Huli lands. His tongue was buried at Daberanda gebeanda near Kupari and his head was buried at Bepenete. Some of the Huli believe that Bayebaye is a type of Christ figure. Indeed, the former gebeali at the Daberada site calls the tongue of Baya Baya the tongue of Christ. 4 “The Huli people see him as Christ. He reminds the people of Jesus’ death and redemption, of achieving something good through first killing it” 5
This version of the legend is from private correspondence with Damien Arabagali, 1984.
Photo courtesy of Ursula Wall of Ursula’s Wanders
- Ennio Mantovanni explores the importance of the dema concept in Papua New Guinea Highlands cultures in “Christ our Life,” in Christ the Life of Papua New Guinea, Occasional Papers of the Melanesian Institute, No. 1 (Goroka: Melanesian Institute, 1983, pp.28-37. [↩]
- Stephen Frankel. The Huli response to illness. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1986., p. 23. [↩]
- The mother’s lament presented by Stephen Frankel. The Huli response to illness. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1986., p. 22: “I, Bayebaye’s mother, am leaving you here. I will take the propitious path. But you will find famine. You will have to slaughter your herds. You will fornicate. You will grovel for food. You will forage for rubbish. She will tell you that she is your mother, but you will take her anyway. She will tell you that she is your sister, but you will take her anyway. He will tell you he is your father, but you will kill him anyway. He will tell you he is your brother, but you will kill him anyway. You will find famine. You will be able to think of nothing but where to find food. There will be plagues, and you will find death.” [↩]
- Private correspondence with Bill Trauba, Assistant Pastor of St. Conrad Catholic Church, Burani, PNG, November 1984. [↩]
- Private correspondence with Francis Gibe of Komo, PNG, November 1984. [↩]