Chauka, yu we?

Chauka, where are you?

1. Maus bilong Chauka

Belo pairap, skul i pinis. Mi harim solwara i bruk long nambis. Mi smelim solwara long win. Mi lap wantem ol wanskul na kalap. Solwara pulap long maus blo mi. Chauka i singaut.

Mi lap na hamamas. Olsem liklik pis. Ol brata na sista pilai long nambis.

Mi kalap long bas i go long Lombrum. Solwara olsem glas long loniu pasis i silip sore; isi isi stret solwara karim bas long Loniu Bris. Solwara karim mipla go long Lolak Bris. Chauka i singaut. Long apinun bas i ron go bek long taun. Win i pas long pes blo mi. Mi smelim solwara. San i go daun.

Sun kamap taim blo skul. Harim news na toksave long Redeo Manus, “maus bilong chauka i hamamas tasol long autim ol news na toksave. Em i maus bilong Chauka”. Chauka i singaut. Ol nasi na papu stap. Mipela wokabaut i go long skul. Solwara i buruk long nambis. Chauka i singaut.

Kirap, silip, kaikai, na wokabout wantem Chauka. Hamamas, kros, na wok.

wok kastam, wok mani, wok gavman, wok lotu. Chauka i singaut.


English: Voice of Chauka

The bell rings, school is over. I hear the sea break on the beach. I smell the sea in the wind. I laugh with my school mates and jump. Saltwater fills my mouth. Chauka calls. I laugh with joy. Like little fish. My brothers and sisters play in the sea.

I catch a bus to Lombrum. The glassy sea at the Loniu Passage is melancholy; tenderly cradles the bus across the Loniu Bridge. Sea takes us across Lolak Bridge. Chauka calls. In the afternoon the bus returns to town. Wind blows in my face. I smell the sea. The sun goes down.

The sun rises time for school. I hear the news and announcements on the Radio Manus, “the voice of Chauka is very happy to bring you all the news and announcements. That is the Chauka’s Voice”. Chauka calls. Our grandmothers and grandfathers stay. We walk to school.  The sea breaks on the beach. Chauka calls.

Wake, sleep, eat, and walk with the Chauka. Happiness, cross, and work.

Custom, work for money, work for government, work for church. Chauka calls.



2. Pikinini Chauka yu go we?

Taim skul pinis. Susu blo mi sanap. Pilot blong balus i singautim mi. Kapten blong sip i salim toktok. Chauka i singaut. Mi tanim baksait na hariap lo go. Smatpela man singautim mi. Ol tambu wetim mi. Wok moni. Ol pikinini pulim susu. Chauka i singautim ol pikinini.

Longwei ples mi harim singsing ‘Chauka i singaut’ ol putim long intanet long olgeta pikinini Chauka bai harim. Taim blong ol tumbuna, kam taim ol waitman i kam, inap nau gavman i holim ples na ol Manus sindaun long giraun, Chauka i singaut

Olsem ol tumbuna na nasi na papu i dai pinis, Chauka i makim maus na putim was long ples. Chauka i makim taim. Em toksave long gutpla na hevi long bihain taim. Olsem ol narapla mak diwai, rokrok, pisin, palai, lip, na diriman. Chauka i holim lewa blong pasin blong ples.

Yumi noken sakim maus blong em.

Chauka i singaut. Chauka i karai.


English: Child of Chauka, where are you going?

When school ended. My breasts matured. The plane’s pilot beckoned me. The boat captain sent a message. Chauka called. I turned my back and rushed to go. Handsome man beckoned me. My inlaws waited. Work for money. Children suckled my breast milk. Chauka called her children.

From afar I heard a song, ‘Chauka is calling’ on the internet for all the chauka’s children to hear. From our ancestors time to when the white man came to now the government controls the land where Manus live, Chauka calls.

Like our ancestors and grandmothers and grandfathers passed, Chauka speaks for us and keeps a watch on our home. She tells the time. He forewarns of good and bad to come. Like other signs in the trees, frogs, birds, geckos, leaves, and dreams, chauka holds our hearts and the ways of the land.

We must not disobey her words.

Chauka calls. Chauka cries.



3. Pik blong wok kastam

Salim tingting nau long pasin tumbuna na pasin blong tete long mekim kastam. Haus karai. Baim meri. Karim pikini. Ol mama na papa, ol lapan na pilapan stretim toktok. Salim toksave i go long olgeta pemili na hauslain. ‘Em nau. Long displa dei bai yumi bung na stretim displa wok’.

Hamaspla mun i stap? Ol mama na sista, Papa na brata katim bus, planim taro na painim saksak long go paitim. Pemili banisim liklik pik na makim em long displa wok. Wetim mun blo bung. Wwantem ol tit blo dok na bilas blong danis. Stretim as basket.

Planti toktok na kros i go i kam. Hamamas i stap long taim garamut bai pairap. Mun ikam na mun i go. Ol papu na nasi, na lapan na pilapan i skelim ol rot blong kam kamap. Husat bai bringim pik? Bai tupla brata kam wantem wanpla haus boi? Wanpla papu? O wanwan man bai karim pik blong em?

Toktok i go i kam. Taro na kaikai klostu nau. Pik tu em bikpla nau. Em pasin kastam. Noken pulim koros. Hamamas na wanbel stap.


English: Pigs for custom work

Reflecting on our ancestors customary ways and our ways today. Deaths. Bride price. Birth. Mothers and fathers, male and female leaders agree. Announce to all the family and clans, ‘That’s it. On this day we meet to perform this work.’

How many months are left? Mothers and sisters, fathers and sons prepare the garden, plant taro, look for sago to beat. Families fence baby pigs and earmark them for this work. Waiting for the month of gathering. With dog’s teeth and costumes for dancing. Weaving the basket’s base.

Lots of talk and cross go and come. The joys for when the drums will beat. The months come and go. Grandfathers, grandmothers, and leaders men and women assess each road to come. Who will bring a pig? Will two brothers come as one clan? One grandfather? One Ancestor? Or will each man bring his own pig?

Talk goes and comes. The taro and garden food are nearly ready. The pig has matured. These are the ways of kastam. Don’t hold a grudge. Be happy and have peace.



4. Wok moni blong wok kastom

Wok kastam i stap na ol planti senis i kamap. Mi wok mani long longwei hap. Ol makim taim blo mi. Potnait ikam na potnait i go. Bai mi winim taim blong halpim as basket?
Gutpla wok blo mi, mi stretim olgeta samting - skul fi, ol tambu lain, na liklik i go long haus kapa.

Het blong mi i pen long displa wok tasol ol femili salim tok. Femili em bikpla samting. Sapos mi no salim mani bai ol no nap save long mi. Olgeta save blong waitman mi kisim pinis na i tru olsem mi holim save kad. Tasol femili i holim pawa blong save lain na olgeta rot blong ples na graun.

Taim wok moni pinis nogut mi tingim ples. Nogut mi tanim ken na go sindaun long graun. Kastam em holim mi insait long save lain na soim rot blong ples. Olsem na mi daunim spet tasol na harim olgeta tok. Kilim skin long wok mani long stretim wok blong femili.

Moni blong mi em wanpla hap halpim long displa wok kastom. Ol femili mekim bikpla wok. Pik, saksak, taro, tit blo dok, basket, pis, torosel. Olgeta wok bung wantem.


English: Working for money for custom work

Amidst the customary work many changes have arrived. I work for wages in a faraway place. They set my time. Fortnight paydays come and fortnight paydays go. Will I meet my deadline to help the basket’s base? My good work is for everything – school fees, inlaws, and a little for the iron roofing.

My head aches for this work but family have sent the word. Family is a big thing. If I do not send money they might not know me. All the white man’s knowledge I already have and it is true that I hold the bank and savings card. But family is where our social power lies; the ways of our home and land.

When money work is over I might think of home. I might turn around and return to live on the land. Kastam holds me safe within my social net and shows  the roads of home. So I swallow my pride and take heed of all the words. Kill my skin for money to do the family’s work.

My money is but one small part of this custom work. Family does a lot of work. Pigs, sago, taro, dog’s teeth, baskets, fish, turtles. We all work together.



5. Gavman tu laik wok kastom

Planti senis i kamap. Taim waitman na Indendence i kamap, garamut i pairap. Ol Manus i sakim lek na ol kalap danis i go. Ol bihainim senis. Ol painim skul na wok long olgeta ples graun. Pasin marit na tambu na kawas i senis tu. Ol sampla lus na planti salim moni kam bek.

Long namel long displa taim ol maus man blong Papua New Guinea na  Australia i bung na pasim tok. Ol sikanim han na putim tok save long maus bilong chauka. Bai ol opim Manus Detensen Senta. Displa wok blong stopim ol lain husat i ronowei long bikpla pait. Ol noken kam sua long Australia.

Wok maket, wok moni, wok gavman, na bisnis long nupla wok kastom. Ol planti lain i hamamas long nupla rot blong mani. Na planti lain a sakim het na askim planti tru. Chauka i sakim het. Em wanem kain senis steret? Imas wanpla nupla pasin wok kastam.

I tambu tru long husat manmeri long kam sua long sip long ples Australia. Husat i sakim displa tok bai kalabusim em na em bai kisim taim long Manus Detensen Senta.


English: The Government also wants to do custom

Plenty changes came. When white men and Independence came the drums beat. Manus shook their feet and jumped and danced and went. Following the change. They searched out schools and work all over the world. Marriage, inlaws and customary relationships changed. Some got lost and many sent money back.

During this time representatives of Papua New Guinea and Australia met and agreed. They shook their hands and announced on the Chauka’s voice. That they will open the Manus Detention Centre. This work was to stop those who flee from war. They must not arrive on the shores of Australia.

Markets, money, government, business from this new customary work. Many people were excited by the new prospects of money. Many people shook their heads and asked a lot. Chauka shook her head. What kind of change is this? It must be a new way of doing custom work.

It was forbidden now for any person to arrive by boat on the Australia’s shores. Whoever disobeys this rule would be jailed and punished in the Manus Detention Centre.



6. Gavman i banisim pik. Man i kamap pik

Hamamas blong tilim kaikai blong wok kastam. Taim ol lain i ronowei long pait kam sua long Australia tok i dai pinis. Ol maus man blong gavman stretim banis pinis. Ol i hariap tru long banisim ol man i kamap olsem pik; Nogut ol i ronowei.

Ol planti mun i lus na planti pik turu nau i stap insait long banis. Bikpla kastam wok turu. Tasol ol tok i hat na wok kastam i stap. Ol kaikai sting. Ol pikini go kamap man. Planti mun i lus. Turangu ol pik I kisim taim long stap insait banis. Ol tu skin I less. Mit blong ol silek.

Chauka, i hait long diwai na putim was i stap. Em sore long ol pik tasol ol gavman i grisim em long makim ai na maus blong ol. Ol pik i traim grisim chauka long opim banis na ol bai ronowei. Chauka. Bipo em pisin blong hamamas na singsing long autim olgeta nius na toksave.

Nau Turangu Chauka. Em kamap pisin blong sore, poret na paitim pik tasol. Ol i mekim wok nupla kastom na salim ol displa lain i go insait long banis silip sore long Manus Detensen Senta.


English: Government fences pigs; Men turn into pigs

Excitement brewed as they distributed the food of custom work. When the people running away from war arrived on Australia’s shores, the agreement had been reached. The representatives of government had built the fences. They hastily detained these men like pigs; In case they run away.

 Many moons passed and plenty pigs were now inside the fence. A very important custom work. But the words were hard and the custom work stayed dormant. The food rotted. Children turned into adults. Many moons passed. Poor pigs suffered inside the fence. Their skins grew tired. Their flesh shrivelled.

Chauka hid in the trees and watched. She was sad for the pigs but the government had convinced her to keep watch and inform. The pigs tried to convince chauka to open the fence so they could runaway. Chauka. Before she was a happy bird who sang and spread the news and announcements.

Now the poor chauka. She became forlorn, scared and could only beat the pig. They did this new custom work and kept those people inside fences to suffer inside the Manus Detention Centre.



7. Gavman i banisim na pasim maus blong Chauka.

Tasol planti pemili ol i no wanbel long displa wok. Em wanem wok stret? Planti pik stret. Husat meri stret kisim displa namba? Husat stret i dai na ol makim planti mun blo wok? Na displa mun tu olsem em i less. Mun i suruk na suruk igo igo inap em tanim igo krismas.

Na ol pik ya bai stap tasol na wetim mun? Chauka yu stap we? Kam na tokaut gut long displa wok kastam. Turangu chauka tu sore long ol pik. Em poromanim ol. Tasol ol mausman blong gavman tu ol bel hevi long chauka. Ol tok olsem em taim blong pasim maus bilong chauka.

Ol gavman putim chauka insait long banis wantem pik. Ol i tok, ‘Chauka yu save toktok planti tumas. Yu pasim maus na wok blong yu long paitim pik na pasim maus blong em. Yu givim kaikai long pik na sapos pik i les long saksak bai yu kisim ston na paitim het blong em.’

Em nau turangu chauka em kisim taim na sore stret long mekim dispela pasin. Ol gavman ol toktok pinis. Long poret tasol na pasin bilong em i senis tru. Chauka i senisim pasin.


English: Government fences and silences Chauka

But many families were not happy with this work. Exactly what work is this? So many pigs. Which woman exactly has got this number? Who exactly died that they set so many moons for work? The moon also seems tired. The moon kept shifting and shifting until she turned into years.

Will the pigs just wait for the moon? Where are you chauka? Come and explain about this custom work. The poor chauka was sad for the pigs. She befriended them. But the government’s men also became angry with chauka. They said it was time to shut the chauka’s mouth.

They put the chauka into the fence with the pigs. They said, ‘Chauka you talk too much. Shut your mouth and your work is to beat the pigs and silence them. Feed the pigs and if they don’t like the sago take a rock and beat their head.’

So now the poor chauka felt deep sadness for living this way. The government had spoken. For fear her ways changed. Chauka changed her ways.



8. Chauka i karai; Pik i kamap Papu

Ol pik tu nau ol i mekim wok kastom insait long banis. Ol i wokim gut tru. Taim chauka i skelim kaikai blong ol ol i kisim na ol i wokim kastam. Ol skelim, ol i makim long wanwan hanlain blong ol. Taim chauka i paitim het blong ol nus na maus na hai blong ol i senis.

Ol i tokaut long olgeta hevi chauka i givim ol. Chauka i pilim bikpla sem. I nogat wanpla pasin tumbuna we bai man i banis olsem pik na makim taim blong wok kastam. Na givim wantem tit blong dok, taro, saksak, na basket. ‘Em displa wonem kastom stret?’, ol askim.

Igo igo na olgeta pik i strong long pasin kastam na ol i senis kamap man. I no masalai pik. I no wel pik. Ol senis kamap turu turu man. Papu. Man nating nogat. Ol i kamap olsem papu turu. Chauka i krai. Em skelim i go na isi isi stret em larim wan wan papu i go.

Ol papu i wokabaut long rot. Ol papu spak long rot. Ol gavman wok moni i lus nating. Taim ol nupla papu wokabaut chauka poromanim ol.


English: Chauka cries; Pigs turn into grandfathers

The pigs began doing custom in the fence. They did it very well. When chauka gave them food they used it to do custom. They divided and earmarked it for their clans. When chauka hit their heads their noses and mouths and eyes transformed.

They spoke about the burdens the chauka gave. The chauka felt remorse. There is not a single ancestral way where men a fenced like pigs and earmarked for custom work. To be given with dogs teeth, taro, sago, and baskets. ‘What custom is this?, they asked.

Time passed and all the pigs did custom work and eventually they transformed into men. Not spirit pigs. Not wild pigs. They turned into real men. Papu. Not just ordinary men. They became respected elder men like our grandfathers. Chauka cried. She thought it through and gently let each Papu go.

The Papu walked freely on the road. They drank on the road. The government’s money wasted for nothing. When new Papu walked chauka befriended them.



9. Papu salim Chauka igo long ples graun

Ol Papu wari na ol karai. Em wanem kain pasin ya? Na Chauka i bekim ol, ‘Tasol em ol gavman ol tokim mi. Ol gavman tok mi toktok planti tumas. Ol tok ol poroman blong mi blong wanpla wok kastam’.

Chauka i sore nau. Em holim papu long bros na tupla i stretim kros. Papu nau i salim chauka. Nupla papu tokim chauka, ‘Ol pikinini blo yu i lus tingting long yu. Nau mi stap mi poroman blo yu. Yu go na autim tok long displa pipia pasin. Displa nupla kastam gavman i tanim man i kamap pik’.

Maus bilong Chauka go na hamamas tasol long autim displa tok. Olgeta man meri long peles giraun. Papu tok, ‘Yu karim maus blo mi na palai long peles giraun. Yu autim olgeta hevi na karai blo mi. wanem liklik na bikpla, gutpla na nogut insait long displa banis. Yu go na tokim ol’.

Chauka i go. Chauka i go. Em karai. Em singuat.

Chauka i go. Chauka i go. Em karai. Em singaut.


English: Grandfather sends Chauka to the world

The Papu worried and they cried. What kind of ways are these? Chauka responded, ‘But the government told me so! The government told me I talk too much. They told me my friends belonged to custom work’.

Chauka was sad. She held papu to her breast and they made amends. Papu now sent chauka. New Papu told chauka, ‘Your children have forgotten you. Now I am your friend. You must go and spread the word about these bad ways. This new customs that the government turns men into pigs.

The chauka’s voice went happily to spread this news. People all over the world. Papu said, ‘You carry my voice and fly all over the world. Disclose everything. All my burdens and tears. Whatever small or big, good or bad that occurred in this fence. You go and tell them’.

Chauka went. Chauka went. She cried. She called.

Chauka went. Chauka went. She cried. She called.



10. Chauka: yu we?

Taim Chauka i lusim ples na go em i kisim kain kain tingting ken. ‘Sapos mi lus namel long solwara nogut bai mi tirip ol taim ol taim. Maus blong mi bai pas na husat bai putim was? Na pasin blong ples, nogut ol nupla papu bai ol i les?’ Em tingim ol pikinini blong em. Olgeta i stap we?

Ol pikinini blong haiwei kirap long bik moning. Rot i bagarap. Klostu belo na kam kamap long ‘Maus bilong Chauka’ - redeo Manus long Lorengau. Ol pikinini solwara ol kam sua. Nupla maket i pas long olgeta lain i bung na maket. Ol nupla papu na bikples wantem.

Na ol turangu ol rokrok, palai, torosel, ol pis, ol lip blong diwai, ol win blong bus, na pisin tu. Olgeta i lukim bikpla banis stret. Na isi isi ol sakim het blong ol. Ating em nupla kastom blong gavman. Nupla pasin blong tanim man.

Chauka yu we? Chauka yu we? Manus krai long yu.

Kam na stretim rong blong gavman na bai gutpla sindaun na pasin stap. Chauka kam bek.


English: Where are you Chauka?

When chauka left the shores she reflected and gave a lot of thought. ‘If Iose my way in the middle of the ocean I may drift eternally. My voice will cease and who will keep the guardian watch? And what about the ways of our home, what if the new papu don’t accept our ways?’ She thought of her children. Where were they all?

 The highway children wake up in the early morning hours. The road is damaged. It’s nearly lunch by the time they arrive at the ‘Chauka’s voice’ - radio Manus in Lorengau. The saltwater children arrive on the shores. The new market bussles as people meet and trade. New papu and mainlanders too.

And the poor frogs, geckos, turtles, the fish, the leaves on the trees, the breeze from the bush, and birds as well. They can all see this massive fence. And gently they all shake their heads. Maybe this new custom belongs to the government. New ways of transforming men.

Chauka where are you? Chauka where are you? Manus is crying for you.

Come and repair the governments’ wrong so peace and harmony can prevail. Chauka come back.


Michelle Nayahamui Rooney explores this poem in her memoir 'Chauka, where are you: Notes on an ethnographic poem'.

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