Jane Fajans is a professor of Anthropology at Cornell University. She
was invited to join the James Cameron expedition during their time in
Papua New Guinea and share her insights into the culture of the Baining
people. Jane conducted fieldwork with the Baining on the island of Papua
New Guinea, near the Mariana Trench in the South Pacific.
On Tuesday, March 13, 2012, Martin and his mother, Tangbinan, sent messages out to various hamlets in the region to invite everyone to a farewell dinner on Wednesday. All day I was told who would be coming. As plans got finalized, I learned that each guest was going to bring food, and that several men and boys were also going to arrange a dance performance of a part of the dance called amambua.
I had seen amambua performed several times when I lived with the Baining in the seventies, but had been told when I visited in 1991 that they no longer performed it. I was pleased to hear that they were performing it again. This particular performance was being readied for the opening of the new health center. The performance for my going away party was thus sort of a dress rehearsal for the event a week or two later.
With invitations out and preparations on the way, Awat, Aidah, and I set off to wash clothes. We headed for a spring and water hole about 20 minutes away. We had to walk about twice as far, however, because we first had to buy washing soap at the trade store along the coast. While at the store, we also bought some rice and tinned fish to serve as my contribution to the going away party.
The water hole is called ‘wata kalop’ in pidgin, which means jumping water. The water comes out of a crevice in the rock and falls to the pool below. Those who use the spring have created a small channel made of a split bamboo to create a kind of waterfall that works as a shower.
Women washing clothes at the ‘wata kalop’. Photo by Jane Fajans.
After we washed our clothes, we spread them out on the grass and bushes to dry. Then we sat in the cacao grove alongside the water and cooked some plantains and waited for our clothes to dry.