PNG fam­ily his­to­ries pre­served

Paradise - - Contents - —KEVIN MC­QUIL­LAN

Is­raeli-based fam­ily his­tory and DNA com­pany, My Her­itage, has em­barked on a project to help pre­serve the fam­ily his­to­ries of five PNG tribes.

A team of five spent two weeks in Pa­pua New Guinea last year, build­ing up a pro­file of the tribes, vis­it­ing 11 lo­ca­tions, record­ing about 4363 names and cre­at­ing fam­ily trees, the big­gest of which has 745 names. The tribes are Owolka (Ji­waka Prov­ince), Melpa (Western High­lands), Karim (East Sepik), Yokoim (East Sepik) and Chimbu (Chimbu).

“When speak­ing to the tribes, we would start with the heads of each fam­ily, and col­lect gen­eral in­for­ma­tion about the tribe, lo­ca­tion and their memories,” project leader, Golan Levi, says.

“Once we had a gen­eral out­line we would start to foren­si­cally track all mem­bers of the fam­ily, dates, birth cer­tifi­cates, pho­tos and any other mem­o­ra­bilia.”

The re­sponse was amaz­ing, says Golan.

“This is the first time that an ex­ter­nal in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion has at­tempted to cre­ate fam­ily his­to­ries of these tribes.

“We also made it clear that the in­for­ma­tion be­ing col­lected is for the lo­cal tribes to own them­selves. It is a liv­ing record that they can build on in the years to come.”

At the end of each fam­ily ses­sion, the team snapped a fam­ily por­trait us­ing a Po­laroid.

“For many, see­ing a photo be­ing printed is akin to a mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, which is won­der­ful to see.”

Golan says the team is amazed at how much value the lo­cals place on the im­por­tance of pre­serv­ing their his­tory.

“There were some very emo­tional mo­ments. Dur­ing a panel with some elders, they re­called child­hood memories, which in­cluded the bomb­ings from World War 2.

“What MyHer­itage is do­ing is safe­guard­ing our lan­guage and our his­tory,” says tribesman Luke from the Yokoim clan.

His­tory in the mak­ing … a MyHer­itage team mem­ber works with vil­lagers to map their fam­ily trees.

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