Coming from the USA, we were impressed at the way babies were integrated into Maring daily life. During the first nine months of our stay, Mbuk, the youngest of Komba’s five children was the only baby in the Fungai hamlets.

097-10: Komba nurses Mbuk after the long trek up from her garden.

He spent all of his waking hours with his mother and nursed whenever he wanted.

097-27: Mbuk enjoys a good drink.

As he grew older and began to walk, his big sister, Pint’, occasionally took care of him.

213-26: Below grandfather Meiko's bank, Mbuk takes a few steps, undetered by the pig in the path.

Later in our visit, Atema’s brother, his wife and baby, Piag, moved in with At’ema and Kondibia for an extended stay. They had crossed over from their home on the other side of the Bismarck Mountains.  Piag was a great favorite among the children.

203-11: Kwiank comes by Kondibia’s yard and plays with Piag.


And then, in the middle of November, both At’ema’s and Weu’s babies were born. Atema named her son after Marek.

174-06  At’ema holds up the new baby, her second child. 

Weu named her baby, her first child and a daughter,  after me.

175-20: Weu and baby Alit’n inside the door of Weu's house the morning after the birth.
175-24: Weu nurses baby Aliti'in

Since “s” is pronounced by native Maring speakers as English speakers would pronounce “ts,” or “Allitson” , we transcribed her name as “Alit’in” – using the same spelling convention we had adopted for other Maring names with this “ts” sound, such as At’ema, Pint’ and Mat’a.

Visiting the baby in the second and third day of her life, we learned that new mothers do not leave their house or yard for several days.  This, of course, didn’t surprise us.  What was surprising was the fact that fathers did not hold or even look at the new-born child until a whole month had passed.

The first time Weu came to Gunts after the birth of Alit’in was on November 22, when Alit’in was about 9 days old. Weu did not come into the yard but remained down on the Kiap Road. The new baby remained hidden, asleep in the bilum.

187-27:  Weu on the Kiap Road with baby Alit’in in the bilum.

And then, on December 18, 1963, Kwingn’s fifth child was born. He was also named after Marek, but since At’ema’s son had been given that name, everyone soon started calling Kwingn’s son Wirelet’, i.e. “radio.”

206-35: Marek films the new baby, now just over one day old.  The two little cousins, Waruk and Kanuk, are looking on.


208-11: Kwingn wipes the milk dripping onto her belly while Wirelet' sleeps in his bilum lined with a new pandanus mat.

  211-64: Kanuk serves steamed greens for herself and her mother.

On January 14, 1964, At’ema’s son, Marek, was brought to Gunts Yard.  He was nine  weeks old.

  229-21_22: Kai holds baby Marek, watched by Gunia.

229-35: At’ema bounces baby Marek, watched by Kanuk

It was only on February 1, 1964, that we saw Nui together with Alit’n, his youngest daughter.

239-12:  Nui, sitting in Gunts Yard with his youngest child,  Alit’in.

239-29:  Nui and Alit’in
239-34: Gau wants to hold Alit’in.

239-35: Gau and baby Alit’in
239-36: Gau “buzzes” baby Alit’in's mouth with her lips.

For this visit to Gunts Yard, Alit'in had been dressed with a tiny pulpul and a possum fur bracelet. She was still too young to mind this typical greeting given to babies as they were handed from one woman to another to be cuddled and played with.

Composed in October, 2011


    Copyright © 1999-2011 Allison Jablonko. All Rights Reserved.