Pride of the Maritime Nation
In 1905, Port Moresby became the capital of the territory of Papua under Australia. Since then, Port Moresby has continued to expand, especially in the port area.
The history of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, began with a fishing village.
When Europeans first visited this region at the end of the 19th century there were a number of villages built with houses on stilts above the sea. The villages were collectively called Hanuabada, meaning a “big village”. The main inhabitants were the Motu tribe.
At present there are only two villages above the sea left in Port Moresby, namely Hanuabada and Koki. Just like in Koki, which I had visited before, the main street in Hanuabada that connects the houses on stilts is a bridge of wooden slats.
Security in Hanuabada is much better than in Koki, so the village is more accessible to foreign tourists. However, the risk is still there so visitors should always be accompanied by local residents.
My host was Pastor Paul Liwun, who is from Flores, Indonesia. He has lived in PNG for a dozen years, and "only" four years in Hanuabada. Despite being fluent in Tok Pisin language and looking very much like a local, Paul admitted to having endured countless muggings and robberies since living in the country.
Visiting PNG in the 21st century as a foreigner is an adventure. However, of course, the adventures of European explorers were far more terrifying, as came when the indigenous Papuan tribes had never had any contact with the outside world.
After setting foot, Moresby claimed the entire area as British possession, and named the area around the port after his father, Admiral Sir Fairfax Moresby.
The European explorer who is called the “discoverer” of Port Moresby was Captain John Moresby. He landed in 1873, in a port area not far from Hanuabada. At that time, Moresby\'s arrival was not accompanied by significant conflict with the Motu tribe, the inhabitants of this area, who were known to be gentle and peaceful. After setting foot, Moresby claimed the entire area as British possession, and named the area around the port after his father, Admiral Sir Fairfax Moresby.
That is where the name Port Moresby came from.
In 1905, Port Moresby became the capital of the territory of Papua under Australia. Since then, Port Moresby has continued to expand, especially in the port area. Electricity was first built in 1925, and Hanuabada was one of the first areas in the country to receive electricity.
Hanuabada people often boast of the importance of their village for the progress of PNG. In the book Upstream Through Endless Sand and Blessing, Hanuabada writer Lahui Ako states: “It was in Hanuabada that the London Missionary Society (LMS) built the base that paved the way for Christianity and modernization in the area.”
One thing that truly surprised me, many of the residents of Hanuabada are physically more like Javanese. While Papuan Melanesians generally have curly hair and black skin, Motu people have lighter skin color, tending to be brown, and some have straight hair.
From a genetic standpoint, Motu people who inhabit the southeast coast of PNG tend to more like Polynesian. The Polynesians are a seafaring nation that thousands of years ago sailed to the remote islands of the Pacific Ocean, up to New Zealand, Tahiti, and Hawaii. The Polynesians are still closely related to the Austronesians who inhabit Indonesia. The Motu language is different from most languages in Papua, including the Austronesian language family which is the same as Indonesian.
As a nation of sailors, Motu people have always been maritime traders. Every year they carry out hiri trading expeditions. They sail to the coastal area of the Gulf of Papua, using traditional lakatoi sailboats.
With a sail that looks like an animal\'s claws, lakatoi sails for months on the wild, high seas. In one expedition, 20 lakatoi with a crew of 600 Motu sailors brought about 20,000 clay pots, in exchange for sago from the Gulf of Papua.
Today, the traditional Motu trade is celebrated every year in the grand Hiri Moale festival. At that time, the beaches of Port Moresby were filled with lakatoi, accompanied by dances and beats of music that evoked their pride as a maritime nation.
As a maritime nation, Motu people also take pride in their language because it is used as the language of trade that is widely spoken in the coastal areas they visit. This is similar to the position of the Malay language which is extensively used in the islands of Nusantara (the archipelago). For this reason, the British colonial government in the early 20th century tried to make Hiri Motu — a simplified version of the Motu language — the unifying language of this country.
After PNG gained independence in 1975, Hiri Motu was recognized as one of PNG\'s national languages, along with Tok Pisin and English. Unfortunately, currently its use is very little, and the majority of speakers are the elderly.
The one that displaces Hiri Motu\'s position is Tok Pisin, a "broken" English version with a local flavor.
(This article was translated by Hyginus Hardoyo).