Real Shark Tale waiting to vanish

As peaceful as they look, deep down they are very troubled. Troubled and saddened by this talk of the PNG government allowing a foreign company to come into the country and turn the seabed upside down just like that.

Eliuda Toxok Shark Calling out at sea

Eliuda Toxok Shark Calling out at sea

“Red Soil” | ACT NOW!

“A shark is a very clever animal. You can be on dry land and it still knows what you are up to, you will never trick it into letting you go or to get it trapped, it knows. No one can tame a shark, but we can. Humans are food to sharks anywhere in the world, but in New Ireland, we also see it as food. In the whole of Papua New Guinea and the world as a whole, it is just us, the people of Kavieng who can mess with a shark. We do not spear it, catch it with a fishing line or trap it in a net, we let it come right next to our canoes before we tie it up with ‘kanda ropes’ onto a piece of wood, and the best part is, it comes to us.”

This shark tale passionately told by two elderly men, two brothers, one in his late 40s and the other in his late 70s, sitting next to each other chewing their betelnuts. A typical afternoon on the sand in their backyard that happens to be facing the wide open sea, from the peaceful little village of Messy in the New Ireland Province of Papua New Guinea.

Enoch Tovalaun, the younger brother said he’s getting white hair all over his head, but he’s still learning from his cousin brother Eliuda Toxok, who happens to be the last of the ‘fully skilled’ Shark Callers remaining, in the village of Messy.

As peaceful as they look, deep down they are very troubled. Troubled and saddened by this talk of the PNG government allowing a foreign company to come into the country and turn the seabed upside down just like that.

“I’m sure the government is the government, politics and all but isn’t it run by people? Human beings with brains, feelings and emotions? One of which happens to be the Member and the other is the governor of the New Ireland Province and etc? Not to mention the Mining Minister Byron Chan, is a son of New Ireland? Can’t they see that this so called development they allow will destroy everything in our sea, the rare fish we only find in the deep waters, and most importantly, our sharks?” remarked a pissed off Enoch.

No sharks, no identity,” he said.

Eliuda breaks in to explain why shark calling is of significance importance to the New Irelanders, apart from what everyone else sees and talks about.

“You see, after we get a shark, we blow the ‘tavur’ (cone shell) three times to let everyone in the clan know so they prepare. The women and young children gather firewood and build fires, and the men and young men help to cut up the shark into pieces as many enough to fit the whole clan. If I catch a shark, I will take the whole of the shark’s fin so that everyone in the village know it is I who did it.

If I am a young man, this will help me choose a wife, for all the young women are attracted to me when I finally make a catch, and when I choose the one I like, her parents will give her away willingly, for I have already proved to them that I am a man. Shark calling is the process that turns a boy into a real man for us. I will love the woman I choose and she will love me right back, and there is peace.

The shark’s flesh is shared with everyone in the clan, and I mean everyone, and the special parts are always given to the women. This is because women are the bearers of our children, it is they who will continue our existence, so we have to keep them as immune as possible to ugly diseases. They are important, which is why we men do the dangerous bit of shark calling, but we still say ‘We New Irelanders are shark callers’ and not ‘We New Ireland Men are shark callers, because they are why we are, and we have to return the favor and balance life in order to continue life.”

He chews another betelnut and his brother Enoch picks up where he left off.

“As told by our grandparents by their grandparents down to us, eating shark meat protects us from high blood pressure, bad knees, diabetes and many others including getting overweight. Our great grandparents became tall and huge people, and that wasn’t overweight.

“Maybe we were huge and tall like Adam and Eve,” Eliuda cuts in with a little chuckle.

“Maybe we were much taller and more huge than Adam and Eve, who knows,” said Enoch, still holding his serious face.

“You find money and you touch our sea, and then you watch us erode to nothing, as if you are not human too, born and existing because of this sea” he said.

“We’ve said much, but that is not all there is, as to why we treasure the sea,” added a worried looking Eliuda. There’s more, this is just about Shark Calling,” he said as he looked at the sands at his feet.


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Filed under Environmental impact, Human rights, Papua New Guinea

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