The Hiri Moale Festival is back this year and as Port Moresby’s premier event residents and visitors alike will no doubt be looking forward to it.
The event wasn’t held last year mainly due to Port Moresby hosting the successful 2015 Pacific Games.
The festival is the pride of the Motu Koitabu people and the event commemorates the trade between the Motu Koitabu people and the Kerema of the Gulf Province.
Legend has it that Edai Siabo from the village of Boera was fishing on the reef when he was taken by a spirit to a cave under the sea. The spirit taught him to make big trading canoes called lagatoi and to undertake hiri trading expeditions to the Gulf of Papua.
On his return he made a model trading canoe and explained his intentions, however, his fellow villagers mocked him. Despite this, Edai continued to fulfill the wishes of the spirit and built the first lagatoi.
The lagatoi was filled with cooking pots his wife had made, and then set sail westwards, following the south-east trade wind called the laurabada in the Motu language.
For months, the Bogebada and its crew were away. The villagers were all convinced the crew had perished. They mocked Edai’s wife, and tried to force her to remarry. Before Edai left, he had instructed her to stay within a corner of her house, not to bathe in the sea, to keep a tally of the days the Bogebada had been gone, to keep her fire burning, and to have her skin tattooed by an old woman. Failing to stick to this routine would endanger the expedition and the lives of Edai and his men.
One day, a lagatoi appeared on the horizon and slowly approached the village. It was Bogebada. Edai was arriving back home, a hero. His wife jumped into the sea and washed away her accumulated dirt, put on her finest costume, walked out onto the verandah of the house, hit it with a stick, shouted, ‘Hedihoroha Bogebada!’ and began dancing in joy.
Other Motuan villagers subsequently built their own lagatoi.
So the Hiri Moale celebrates the return of the lagatoi which is why a significant part of the festival is held on the shores of Ela Beach.
There is also a Hirihanenamo (Hiri Queen) contest which is often much looked forward to.
Hanenamo is a young woman who display the right attitude, manners and behaviour and whose character is respectful of the such title.
It is from this original concept that the modern day Hiri Hanenamo (Queen) competition is derived from. Infact the wife of the first Hiri pioneer Edai Siabo was the first Hiri Hanenamo for her display of commitment and dedication to the rituals vital to ensuring a successful Hiri Trading voyage.
Hiri Hanenamo is not attributed to beauty alone, beauty is just one aspect. Elegance and grace in carrying out duties and during performances is also considered. Approval and appraisal by village elders honours such a person.
Don’t miss this festival, there is nothing like it!
Would you like a Motuan Tatto printed on a beach towel as a souvenir? Take a look at these wonderful towels from our Gift Shop Toubin! Click the image below for details on how to purchase.