by Jo Tumbe Mangi

Gifts are an integral part of every human society, often going beyond sociological kinship based obligations to attaining mythical or spiritual significance. · The case in point is Marcell Mauss’ (1954) interpretation of the Maori concept of hau. Sahlins (1972:149-82) also devotes a lot of · space to the concept of the gift.

In the simplest of terms, gifts are items often of value given to other people, usually closely .related to the donor, to help out in times of strife for example, paying a pearl shell to a relative to help pay for his bride price. This may be paid back in kind or in something else of a similar value whenever the donor is in need. This heading also covers items of value given to relatives without any expressed expectation of return payments, for example, a father giving an axe blade to his son when he comes of age. Modjeska (1973:22) found that among the Duna 35% of 130 axe heads was acquired through gifts from the recipient’s parents or close relatives.

Ceremonial Exchange
Ceremonial exchange encompasses many of the social prestations that have been identified for the Western Highlands and Enga Provinces; that is, the Moka among the Melpa Strathern 1966, 1969, 1971) and the tee among the Enga (Meggitt 1972, 1974, Feil 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984). These are basically large exchange systems which are tied in 1-1 in the political system of Highland big men. A lot of the valuables that move from one area to another actually go by the avenue.

It is important to note that the Huli did not have such major ceremonial exchange festivals like moka or tee. Their ceremonial life was focused more around ritual and religious cult centers. (Chapter 2).


Payments covers any items given to another group or individual either to compensate for some damages done to· ·the other group or services rendered. This would include such things as compensations and ‘blood’ payments to kinsman. To the Huli, the onus to initiate and execute these payments fell on the people who are immediately involved, that is, the kin of the person who was responsible for starting up the fight as clearly demonstrated by Glasse (1968:94).
In any dispute, the original opponents are potential initiators of war. If their quarrel develops into a fight, they are responsible for indemnifying any injuries or deaths that result. Each initiator is jurally obliged to pay for losses on his own side and, in certain circumstances, for losses on the other side of the enemy.

However, it must be mentioned that in such situations all members of the group were expected to contribute once the initiative was taken. Modjeska (1977:267) mentions an almost identical pattern for the Duna.

A similar case can also be made for bride-price payment for the Huli. Glasse mentions that there was no dowry along with the bride (Glasse 1968:54). This practice is still maintained today. This is unlike the pattern observed immediately to the east as far as Simbu where it is the group or clan that collectively foots any compensatory or indemnity payments where there is always some dowry along with the bride in marriage payments. In Huli for any bride price he highest contribution comes from the groom whilst later on (1968:76), he mentions that “86 percent of the items in the bride price was supplied by the groom.”

Informants claim that payments in term of pig, tree oil, cowrie shells and ochre were given to the Kepali for the service rendered by divining for certain individuals or a group. The Kepali was the guardian of the ritual cult centres. Pearl Shells were not paid. Similar payments were made to the Igiri apa for their service to the initiation of young Huli men. The Igiri ~ was in change of the initiation of young men. My informant Tapuku Tamela paid 22 cowrie shells when he went into Ipikiya while another that he was with paid a half of a pig.

Apart from yole, the social setting for all the other types of transactions mentioned above – while providing avenues for the flow of goods and scarce resources also serve an immediate sociological function. Sillitoe (1978b:21) provides a good summary of the social aspect:
A bridewealth exchange, for example, brings affines together, and the exchange of wealth not only symbolizes the creation of new affinal relationships but it is also the first in a series of transactions between new relatives which serve to pull t:hem together. The ramifying mortuary exchanges which follow deaths focus attention on the relations between people which the death of a party to the relationship weakens, and these transactions serve to reinforce these damaged relations. Similarly, reparation payments following the violent death are not simply compensation for the deceased’s kin, they are statements by the party responsible for the death that it was unintentional and that they do not wish to terminate their social relations. The multitude of other exchanges, both small and large, seen throughout Melanesia serve similar sociological purposes.

While this study concerns itself with a specific exchange activity, namely yole, when it comes to seeking for an explanation for the origin, development and subsequent maintenance of any exchange relations one really cannot divorce it from other exchange systems. In all these instances of transaction items of wealth or other commodities handled are often the same. Items that enter an area through trade may end up being used for ceremonial exchange purposes and vice versa. While the contextual and socio-political aspects of these transactions can be shown to be demonstrably different as to warrant independent explanations that fact that the material are often the same will invariably mean that an explanation of one can be taken as an explanation of the other.

This is simply because despite the apparent contextual differences the underlying motive in any transaction is the same. That is, in any transaction both parties in it stand to gain. There is always that motivation that each of the parties stand to gain (cf. Sillitoe 1978b:21). Having said this it must be added that these perceived gains can never be identical. If there is to be any transaction at all the perceived gains must be different. Taking this natural desire to gain as the central focus one realizes that trade and ceremonial exchanges are but the same in many respects. Only the nature of the gains may be different. Therefore, in seeking an explanation for one, the other should not be ignored.

Aims and Objectives

The are four aims and objectives in this thesis. First, it is a study of the general trade network of the Huli with their neighbours. The area covered in this study is between the areas where similar studies were conducted by Hughes to the east, Swadling to the west and Sillitoe to the south (Map 1). In that sense it attempts to cover the interesting gap in between.

The other objectives are all centred around the concept of trade and resource distribution and the rationale of yole in that order.

The second objective looks at resource distribution, methods of procurement and the techniques of production of those items used in yole by the different yole partners within the study area. With those items that are actually produced out of the study area but enter the Huli exchange network it attempts to identify the source of these items, for example stone axes.

The third objective is to look at the routes used by the people who were involved in the different yole expeditions and to try and establish the antiquity of these ancient routes by archaeological excavations. Sites were located along these routes well away from the present settlements and test excavations were made in an attempt to get datable material. These sites would have been used as temporary shelters during hunting, trading or other expeditions.

In the course of my fieldwork it became evident that Huli men (and sometimes women) went in large groups northwards into Enga territory and as far south as the southern slopes of Mt. Bosavi on yole expeditions. The final and most important aim is to look at the question of motivation, that is, the underlying rationale behind such undertakings.

The Rationale of This Study

When looking at the question of motive it is the perceived gain that provide the motive or, rationale of any activity. My whole argument is based on the premise that in any transaction – and more so in the yole – the individual participants stand to gain by whatever standard they perceive · (cf. Sillitoe 1978b:21), a point also mentioned above).

In short, I set out to seek answers to these questions. In yole undertaking what was the
underlying motive(s)? Definitely the motive was to gain something. Then what was the nature of these gains?

There are two likely explanations. First, that they conducted yole to obtain things that they
needed or desired. Second, that they were middlemen traders like the Siassi Islanders.

(This extract is from a thesis by Jo Tumbe Mangi, Yole: A Study of Traditional Huli Trade. in full requirement for the degree of Masters of Arts in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology: University of Papua New Guinea. 1988. pp. 15-19).

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