The Yokoim tribe resides in the twin villages of Kundiman and Manjamai. Despite the efforts of the tribe leaders to preserve the Yokoim language, it is currently in steep decline, with very few living speakers. Still, other Yokoim traditions remain intact, including belief in magical spells and the power of communicating with one's ancestors.
Kundiman and Manjamai, Papua New Guinea, S 4 52'06.40" E 143 53'069.0"
Bird of paradise clan
A disappearing language
Luke’s family has been in Kundiman for many generations. He is sad to see the unique culture and language of the Yokoim tribe edging closer and closer to extinction.
The tribe’s ancient naming practices help prevent intermarriage within the same clan. Each person receives three names: one passed down from the father’s side, one from the mother’s side, and an additional Christian name. This way, each person’s genealogy is easy to discern, and inter-clan marriages — and the genetic diseases they can produce — are easier to avoid.
My children don’t know Yokoim ways. They only speak Tok Pisin. After my generation,
the language will be lost. The culture will be lost.
The most important thing is to
safeguard our legends and our history.
We want the children coming later to be able to search through the Internet and pick up whatever they want to know about their tradition.
Holding on to tradition
The traditional animal totem of Jeffrey's clan has been forgotten, but Jeffrey is doing his best to leave a legacy for his children nonetheless. He has been recording his daily life in a journal, so that the next generation will have a glimpse into the way things were before. He hopes that these memories will encourage those who come after him to preserve the culture of the tribe so it doesn't disappear forever.
I hope for my children
that all of what I enjoy in my life now, getting the fish from the river, making food out of sago, that they also get to enjoy all of these beautiful things.
Our ancient forefathers came from up the river. At first they lived deep in the forest, but life was hard. So they came here, to the river banks to fish and collect sago.
We are the children of immigrants.
The origin story
Although Jeffrey feels well-connected to his home in Kundiman village, the tribal origin story tells of arrival from far away.
Jeffrey collects his memories of the family legends and accounts of daily life for one specific purpose: to allow the next generation to carry on the tribal traditions so they don’t become extinct.
I started writing this book as a journal, and kept writing in it as a
record of my life,
so that those who come after me will know what I did and what came before them.
Love & spells
Gerald and his wife Maria were married in 1977. The story of their relationship is atypical in the community, where most marriages are arranged. One of Gerald and Maria’s children is adopted. Donila was born to Gerald’s brother’s daughter.