by Daii-Urulu (Translated by Chris Ballard) 1

The Hela province covers an area of 10,498 km² with nearly 250,000 inhabitants 2 The province came into being on May 17, 2012, with Tari as the Provincial capital, and comprising three districts previously part of Southern Highlands Province.

Betty Gabriel Wakia reports that “The deity Hela married an unknown woman who bore him four sons, Obene, Huli, Duna and Duguba. They had a fight which resulted in Obene fleeing to live in the Magarima area, Duna to Lake Kopiago and Duguba to Mount Bosavi, while Huli remained in the Tagari river basin. They were the first human beings and each founded the cultural group that is known to the Huli by those same names.” 3

Below is a short version of the Hela myth:

“The woman [Tia Nangumel] sitting down there bore all of these things:
the grasses gambe (Miscanthus floridulus), yagua (Pteridium aquilinum) and dangi
(Imperata cyclindrica) and then water which came out.
She placed the sky and the mountains.
First she placed the sky, then the forests and mountains.
Sitting over there she completed these things.
This woman came here along the track.
She went along the track and slept once over there at Koroba,
then a second time at Kiaburege and then she went over there to Hewari Gambeni…
She came to Hewari Gambeni, from Gelote over there. The place Gelote.
She went to Duna, to Hewari Gambeni.
Seated there, she bore Hela.
The man Hela. Hela was born there.
The first born to Hela was Hela Huli,
No, the eldest was Hela Duna.
When he had been born, Hela Duguba was born.
When he had been born, Hela Obena was born.
Then Hela Hewa was born.
Then the woman Gogonabe was born.
Then Hela Huli was born last.
There they made a house and sat.
A long house, going up, they built.
When they were building the house, they called out, ‘Bring some rope.’
They said, ‘Let us build a house,’ but Hewa stood about doing nothing.
He was lazy down there. When he did thus, they beat him with a stick.
When he had been beaten, he said, ‘No’;
when Wana [Hewa] had been beaten, he said, ‘I am going off with my sister Gogonabe,’
and these two went off and slept over there.”

You may read another longer version of the Hela myth here.

  1. Ballard, Chris. “The Death of a Great Land: Ritual, History and Subsistence Revolution in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.” A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of The Australian National University, Canberra, January 1995, Narrative B3. []
  2. 2011 census figures. []
  3. Betty Gabriel Wakia. Datagaliwabe, the Great God-progenitor of The Hela Nation, 2022. []

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