The Granman Speaks

The day started with the sound of a cool breeze tickling the dry palm fronds of our hut, and the laughter of children at play in the shallow waters of a creek nearby, where women chatted softly whilst washing clothes. A beautiful and soothing way to begin another busy day in Kwamala. Our reception here has been full of warmth, and with the Granman's blessing the day has been filled with the richness of the Trio culture. Granman Asongo seems very taken with our project and intentions of trying to raise awareness by giving him a bigger voice through the Internet. He had called another Krutu (meeting) this morning to discuss again the problems that his people face. And we were totally awe-struck to see him arrive proudly in his full traditional finery, a crown of coloured feathers and a belt of handspun cotton and beads,

The meeting started with the usual respectful handshakes, and we all sat after he had taken his place. To illustrate the onset of change Asongo explained how, in the sixties, an American came to stay and introduced the trappings of a different world to them, a generator for lights and radio, and how slowly, with the introduction of money the old ways of barter and exchange have largely disappeared. With new needs and desires filling the minds of the young he fully acknowledges the tide of change and the importance of progress. Paddles are fine, but outboard motors are a lot more effective. The traditional fabric of daily life should be preserved, he said, and it was important that the children don't stray too far from their roots or they will forget the ways of the forest and how it has always provided for their needs. In this light he has welcomed the support of organisations and individuals to help them set up programmes to teach the young valuable medicinal knowledge, but he expressed his worries that some come with big plans and promises that never seem to materialise "all feathers and no meat".

When asked about land rights he explained they had no legally binding claim to their Ancestral lands, the prospect of mining or commercial logging did not interest him as without the forest there would be no food medicine, or building material. To corroborate this and show the full extent of Trio land he produced the most beautiful map you've ever seen. Hand drawn over three months it was full of information vital to survival here: the whereabouts of medicinal plants special woods, fruits, nuts and animals, gravesites and natural obstacles all depicted in unique symbols. No GPS, no cartographers - just a lot of legwork. After the meeting we were treated to a timeless and beautiful display, flute and turtle-shell music that make today’s video well worth downloading to the end. This afternoon Romeo, our guide, translator and man of humour, led us to meet Twa-Twa Pon one of the last remaining and largely unassimilated Akurio. They were 'discovered' by missionaries in the '60s and even then there were only seventeen. Greeting us with a beaming smile and an unaffected warmth, that deeply touched us all, Twa-Twa-Pon explained how they had been hit by an epidemic that wiped out almost all of his tribe 'It came from behind like spears in the back from a ghost'. It was influenza.

Runningman sat mesmerised as he listened to the History of the Akurios. Look at Twa-Twa Pon and you look into a whole other world ... a world, almost lost to the Akurios. There are ten tribes in Kwamalasamutu of which the Akurios are but one. They are last ones to come out of the forest, and there are only a few families left, some here, but thirty or so in Tepu where we go from here.

The day has been wonderful, meeting people throughout the village. Everybody seems to be happy to talk to us openly about their lives, helping to make our project work. It is an honour... a responsibility.



Granman Asongo

The Trio World

Twa-Twa-Pon - "Last of the Akurios"

LINKS - More about The Shaman's Apprentice Program
(Requires Internet Connection)