On 16 September 1975, Papua New Guinea became an independent state after 70 years under Australian rule. Student Raho Kila shares the significance the day has for her.
I am proud to call myself a Papua New Guinean, home to seven million people who are so friendly. Papua New Guinea is split into four regions; Papua the lower coastal region, Highlands the mountainous region, Momase which is upper coastal region and the Islands the exterior region. I proudly come from the Papuan region where a woman’s story and journey is told on her body.
There is only one day a year were Papua New Guineans come together to parade our heritage and our culture on 16 September. Forty-two years ago on 16 September 1975, Papua New Guinea had gained independence from Australia. On this special day we get to remind ourselves of all the things that we get to share as a nation, the richness in our diverse cultures and linguistic diversity.
Most importantly it’s the coming together of 20 provinces, 1000 cultural groups and 800 distinctive languages with a population of seven million and still counting. To me personally, Independence Day is a moment of pride and an embracing of my culture. I remember when I was little my grandmother would wake me up at 5am in the morning to dress me up in my tradition costumes and tattoo my body as she told the story of ancestors. These stories were of my ancestors that voyaged out in search for goods to serve our village. The same stories that are tattooed on woman’s body and passed down from generation to generation. Once I would be dressed in my traditional costumes I would parade in school as proud Papuan. However as I grew older and traveled aboard to study I felt my culture sipping through my fingers as I slowly lost touch of my Papua New Guinea independence day routine.
Growing up in Australia and New Zealand I have adapted into a culture that I cannot claim as mine in order to socially survive, being privileged with my grounded parents I have never lost sight of being a Papua New Guinean. Coming to Christchurch and University of Canterbury as a young Papua New Guinean woman, it has definitely been a wakeup call for me and a rigorous journey in consolidating my identity as Papua New Guinean.
Especially being a minority in a city that is nowhere near home, I have come realize that I am not only an ambassador to my country’s identity but I am an ambassador to my unique culture.
Surprisingly, although I am thousands of miles away from home I am thankful to the Pacific Development Team who have given me opportunities to reconnecting on my culture and language and embrace my unique culture and identify. I have had the privilege of teaching linguistics students at University of Canterbury, my native mother tongue, as well as reconnecting on my culture where I have shared the same stories that my grandmother once told me and in turn has allow me to be a hold my head up with pride.
Although I may not be fluent in my native language or fluent in my cultural understanding at the end of the day. I am proud to identify myself as a young Papua New Guinean woman who has traveled aboard away from home and shared the stories that of my ancestors once told.