Light of the world
She, the light of the world.
He watched her rise and set.
They met at church as most do.
And then again on bus rides to school.
Then at markets. Then in shops.
On Facebook. Through text. Over phone calls.
Rising together till she fell.
But she refused his advances one day.
So he stained her cloak with fear one night.
Her sun never rose there after.
As she lived by the fear of light.
She burned her cloak, to hide the stains
When his family paid the five hundred kina.
Forgive and forget, her Pastor prayed
God punishes because we are all sinners.
And he sniffed at some white stuff.
Thought he was the right stuff.
And clenched at his heart one day.
– Myocardial Infarction
The coroners transcription.
Was all that was needed to say.
That’s when they came for her.
In the thick of her fear,
Extinguishing her light from the world.
The lawyers, the police.
The accountants, the priests.
They chanted our ancestors words.
You, the girl who witched his heart.
The doctor said “you broke his heart”.
You deserve to die, the witches way,
The girl who lived, by fear of light.
I wrote this poem with a lot of hate and disgust at a part of Papua New Guinean society that I can’t reconcile with who we are as a modern nation. For all we strive to be – holding on to our culture and customs and celebrating it – we are also still held back by the fear and deeply entrenched superstition that we harbour in the undertow of our conversations. I don’t mind being controversial here because someone has to be.
Something is seriously munted as shit if superstition is being treated as grounds for a criminal offence.
It is a frustration I have shared over social media recently claiming that in Papua New Guinea, no one dies from natural causes. If one does, it is more then likely that some form of witchcraft was at the bottom of it. The more I listen, the more frightening this escalating trend in SRV cases is becoming.
It is a fear that parasites off of our own fears, one that our grand parents fed to us, that our parents beat into us, and one that we whisper to each other. A feedback loop that accepts violence in an already Machiavellian-istic violent culture that easily uses the words paitim em, kilim em, brukim em.
With the unexpected death of young rugby league talent Kato Ottio in recent weeks under less then typical circumstance, it was a fear of mine that sorcery would be a scapegoat for reasons as to a cause of his death. I held my breath on the weekend. Sure enough, on Monday an Instagram post was that only fuelled my angst. Apparently, relatives of the late Mr Ottio had ‘found a suspect’ responsible for the death of Kato Ottio.
Mr Ottio who had died from a suspected heat stroke, in an incident, that in any other case would have warranted an investigation, or inquest into his training with the SP PNG Hunters was silenced. In stead, a heavy cloud was allowed to accumulate, harbouring suspicion that sorcery was to blame. What is concerning is that it is a sentiment that is being propagated and promoted by those who PNG society considers our most educated and prominent citizens.
My parents, believe in this and though I admit to being a secondary witness to shit I can’t yet rationally explain, I am not one to admit for a second that this is a culture we need to hold onto. Mum and dad continuously bring up sorcery as a way to explain the unexplainable and I’m like:
“What the shit yo! Ya’ll crazy people are supposed to be smart as shit. Masters, PhDs and still believe in dumb shit, eye for an eye justice. Still holding on to old as customs that need to be killed off. PNG oh stop being so superstitious and basic.”
I am even more at odds now because the church too admit to sorcery and witchcraft being a ‘real’ thing in PNG. I don’t doubt in the power of the unseen but fuck religion if all is does is accept our status quo. No son or daughter of this land deserves to die or be victim to violence when suspicion is the only evidence. Pasin blo suspect nating nating yah maski, lusim.
If the church is not assisting in making it right then it is complicit in making it worse. If there solution is to do more crusades then they have missed the plot.
Chuck a girl in the mix and it becomes a stained cloak of shame entwined in narratives of Gender-Based Violence because women are often the ones accused of practicing sorcery. It pains me to talk about it which is why the victim in my poems will more then not be gendered according to dominating power differentials. In PNG, men have power to create labels and women come under those labels.
It is a fucked up society, but where to start, I don’t know. I’d ask God but he doesn’t seem too care much right now.