Singsing in Honor of Peter Vayda

At the end of August, 1963,  Peter Vayda had completed his fieldwork and prepared to return to New York. His departure was officially marked by a singsing in Gunts Yard hosted by the Fungai-Korama clans. The singsing required a great deal of preparation as the invited guests – Peter Vayda himself, the Bomagai-Angoian clans, and people from the Gai mission station – would be presented with pork.

Early on the first morning of the singsing, Gul’s family had already come to Gunts Yard and had started heating the stones to make an earth oven.

102-31: Gul minds the fire on which the stones have been placed that will later be placed in the earth oven.

102-04: Gul's third wife, Gandim, with their daughter, Koram, prepares food.

Throughout the middle of the day, while the pork, chicken and vegetables were cooking, ceremonial dress was prepared, and in the afternoon a group of local young men began tuning up their drums and practicing at the back of the Vaydas' house.  Little boys watched from the sidelines.

103-11: Para suddenly leaves the group of little boys who are watching the young men tuning up their drums.

Para wanted bilas, so he picked up feathers from one of the roosters that had been killed and was now being cooked in the earth oven.

103-06_07, 103-08_09: Para sticks rooster feathers into his hair.

103-16: His headdress ready, Para runs to find a drum.

103-29: An empty kerosene drum comes in handy.

103-30: Arum watches Para and the other dancers.

Marek realized that Nintup, Awar’s eldest son, did not have dancing plumes, so he loaned him a Bird of Paradise that we had bought for a museum collection.

103-02: Nintup is delighted to be able to borrow a Bird of Paradise plume for the occasion.

The drums, which hadn’t been used for some time, needed to be repaired and the drumheads tightened with water and mud.  Then the men were set to go, circling the houses in Gunts Yard.

107-10: Gul watches his son, Nomani, tighten the drum head.

105-17: Nintup circles the yard with the other Fungai-Korama men.

Later in the afternoon, when the food was ready,  the men gathered around to take the various pieces of pork out of the earth oven.  The women stayed at the edge of the yard.

108-20: Men separated the meat from the ferns and greens
covering the hot rocks with which it had been steamed.

108-07: Gul and Ambia take the sides of pork out of the earth oven

106-06: Pint' and visiting girls watching from the side.

108-12: Marek and Maia go close to the still hot rocks.

108-24: Mbana looks on while Cherry Lowman Vayda and Marek take photos.

The pork would be distributed the next day, but the greens – savory with pork grease – were enjoyed immediately.

108-31: Maia strips the frond from a fern... 108-35: ... sucking the meaty juice ...
108-36: ... and picking off tiny bits of meat.

hen the dancing continued until darkness fell.

109-11: Konduwai and his father, Gul, drumming as they circle Gunts yard.

Composed in August, 2011


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