by Jo Tumbe Mangi

(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. 66-71.)

Red Ochre, hare, is extensively used by the Huli in dressing. It is used to paint their pubic aprons, their wigs, and as normal face and body paint in casual daily dressing. Given the extensive use of hare it is not surprising that this commodity is still produced and can be bought on the shelves at the Tari or Wabia markets. What was a pleasant surprise was that the source hare is confined to only one area within the Huli territory. This means that traditionally it would have been an item that was extensively traded. Below is a description of the manufacture of hare and the myth relate d to it. The following inf ormation on hare was provided by Pake Pamo no of the Kepua hameig ini who is the owner of the Moroli hare spring and Kpoaye Takupe from the Ti kipi hameigini but is the owner of the Piwe hare spring because he is currently residing with the Pitakali hameigini.

Hare is only found around in the upper vicinity of the Alua and the Toma river. Elsewhere in the Huli territory there is no source of hare. Here there were seven places where hare was cooked. These were at Topari and Kipama owned by the Honggua hameigini, Egapugwa, Tambe, and Kamiyi owned by the Pitakali hameigini. Of these only the Moroli, Piwe and Egapugwa springs are still in use to produce hare. (see map below.)

Springs used to produce red ochre by Jo Mangi

The others have been out of production since the arrival of Europeans to the area. I visited all three of the sites but as the method of production is identical I will discuss only the one at Moroli as this is not only the most impressive but is also where I did most of the work and collected samples from. Before doing so I recall the myth relating to the origin of hare:

The Red Ochre (Hare) Myth

Hare is believed to be the excreta of a young women ( Wandarilaba) who dwells underneath the ground. In the beginning hare was confined to the eastern side of the Alua River. One day there was heavy rain and the river rose high and threatened to overflood and wash away the hare springs so a man started digging a drain, kana, to divert the water. It so happened that there lived a man on the other side of the river by the name of Takalialu who asked the other man what he was doing. Even after the man explained Takalialu kept on asking which angered the other man so much that he picked up some hare from Moroli and threw it at the face of Takalialu. Takalialu cleared the mud and flung it away. Where it fell, that is where hare is found today on the other side of the Alua at Piwe and Egapugwa. He then wiped his hands on the haro, kaloma, eno, embo and kondi trees. These are the trees whose wood we now use when cooking hare. This is the end of the story of hare.

Method of Production.

Morali Ochre Spring Map by Jo Mangi.

Hare is manufactured from sediments found in certain springs in the general marshland, pagwu, area at the foothills at the head of the Alua and Toma rivers. (See figure 2) As already mentioned, there were seven springs but only three of them are still functional. The spring is initially divided at its source into two branches by heaping up pebbles or wood. These act as stream barriers diverting the flow of the stream into one or the other branch. As soon as one of these branches are full with sediments the flow is diverted to the other side in which the sediments would have already been processed. In some instances like the one at Moroli both were allowed to fill with sediment.

Wood and sometimes large pebbles are placed at the head of the spring at intervals across the stream. This helps to slow down the speed and the sediments that the spring is carrying settle at the bottom of these trough like barriers. The sediment is a grey yellowish mud. When the owner is satisfied that the different troughs are filled, he sets out to prepare the wood for the heating process by cutting new wood and stacking it up beside the usually open sided lean-to hut in which the hare would be heated. In preparing the wood he must ensure that there are enough of both softwood and hardwood. When the wood is dry the owner goes to the spring and removes the sediments and places them on the leaves of the highland breadfruit, (Ficus spp.). This process starts at the bottom of the troughs making its way to the top. When one branch of the stream had been cleared of the sediments the troughs are cleaned out and then replaced to start the process all over again. The sediments are brought to the lean-to hut and left there overnight on sloping ground to let any excess water to drain out.

For the site of Moroli it took me and the owner, Pake Pamono, a whole day work to empty one branch of the stream. That night we had to stay away from home and spent the night in a hut at the site because it is forbidden to come home when ‘cooking’ hare. The other taboo that we had to observe was not to drink water during the whole time that the cooking of hare went on. It is believed that drinking of water will spoil the ochre and the colour will not come out properly. Women were prohibited from the site traditionally but are now allowed in; however they still cannot see the hare being ‘cooked’. If the owner killed someone he could not go into the site for up to eight months.

Very early the next day the sediments that we had collected on separate leaves were put together into two big piles with triple layers of highland breadfruit leaves and bundles using raw bush vines. At the same time a large fire was started using most of the softwood that had been prepared. The parcels were placed on top of the fire and we sat down to rest. Occasionally Pake would get up and add some more wood to the fire or fan the fire using a cordyline branch while uttering a spell.

When all the softwood were burnt Pake added the hardwood saying that the hare had hardened on the outside and now it was time to burn the inside and therefore you needed the hardwood to give more heat. Before we left for the night the last of the hardwood was added on. The third day was spent parcelling the ochre that had turned to a deep red colour. Each parcel would cost about K2.00 at the market. When this was completed I rushed down to the Alua river to get a drink of water because right throughout the cooking process of hare we had observed the taboo not to drink water.

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