An initiative of Riback Stevedores to help the Ahi people of Lae, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Ahi Festival 2012 unites villages and Lae

With the expansion and development of Lae, traditional Ahi villages are being forced to accept new changes and influences. MALUM NALU reports
SINCE the inaugural Ahi Festival in Lae in December 2010, there have been so many changes in Lae, Morobe province.
Miss Yanga Aito Aiten leading her villagers during the opening on Thursday, December 13.-Pictures by MALUM NALU
The 2012 festival – backed by major sponsor Riback Stevedores, National Gaming Control Board, Bank South Pacific, Morobe provincial government, Lae Builders and Contractors, Papindo, Intouch Media, and PNGFM  was held at the Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium from December 13-16.
Yalu villagers
Lae is slowly, but steadily, getting back its ‘garden city of Papua New Guinea’ tag, its infamous potholes are disappearing, and business is booming.
Hengali villagers
Crime and social problems, however, infest this garden of good and evil.
The six Ahi villages –Yalu, Kamkumung, Hengali, Butibam, Yanga, and Wagang - are all located within and around the industrial city of Lae.
Butibam villagers
Along with the expansion and development of Lae, these traditional villages are also being forced to accept new changes and influences brought about by the changing socio-economic conditions.
The changing socio-economic conditions have placed a high demand for land on the Ahi communities. 
Yanga villagers
This has seen most of the traditional land being taken away.
Land was taken earlier by missionaries, then the colonial government and recently the state and industry. 
Wagang villagers.
The attractions of  urban life along with government’s and industry’s demand for labour has also attracted Papua New Guineans to migrate to Lae in search for work and better living conditions.
This unfortunately has created a need for more land.
Ahi Festival motorcade around Lae
Consequently, customary land which used to be hunting and gardening land has all been replaced with buildings, factories and urban settlements.
Without gardening or hunting land, most inhabitants of the Ahi community are now forced to adopt and embrace the cash economy. 
Ahi Festival motorcade around Lae
Education of the children of Ahi is therefore important, the main reason for the Ahi Festival.
Without land and other natural resources, the human resources must be trained and developed if the Ahi community is to survive and live in peaceful co-existence with every other Papua New Guinean and the wider Lae community.
Crowd at the Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium
The economic changes around Lae also bring with them many tangible and intangible social problems which affect the Ahi communities.
Tangible social problems include unemployment, law and order issues, drug abuse, alcohol problems, and school drop-out rate is high.
School children singing the national anthem at the opening
Intangible social problems include breakdown in moral standards, and lack of ethics in community leadership – a recipe for corruption which affects the management of church groups, clans and businesses owned by the people, community disharmony, and breakdown in the family unit.
Ahi son and Morobe Governor, Kelly Naru, hit the nail on the head when delivering the keynote address at the festival last Thursday when he urged Ahi villagers to stop selling their land to outsiders, as well as get into business.
Morobe Governor Kelly Naru speaking at the opening
He also paid K10, 000 cash to festival organisers as his personal contribution as a Yalu villager.
Naru said the six Ahi villages would have to draw up a standard customary land policy.
“A lot of Ahi traditional land has been lost to people from other provinces and government,” he said.
Riback operations manager George Gware and festival organiser George Gware speaking during the opening
“This has to stop.
 “My government has policies to deal with this but it needs support from the six villages.
“We have to come up with a standard customary land policy.
“I want the Ahi land mobilisation committee to sit down with me and discuss this.”
Naru urged the Ahi people to stop being passive observers in the city and to get into business.
“We are poor people,” he said.
“How many Ahi people own PMVs, taxis and stores in Lae?
“We are spectators to people from other provinces.
“Are we going to sit back and let this go on forever?
“Enough is enough.”
Highlights of this year’s Ahi Festival included the Miss Ahi pageant, Carols by Candlelight, and of course the four-day sporting extravaganza which brought together the best sporting talent from the six villages.
Hengali village beauty Noelyn Kahata was last Friday night crowned Miss Ahi 2012 at the Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium Indoor Complex.

Miss Ahi 2012 Noelyn Kahata with Miss Ahi 2012 Christine Amos

Riback operations manager George Gware congratulates Miss Yanga and first runner-up Aito Aiten

Miss Ahi 2012 Noelyn Kahata with Miss Ahi 2012 Christine Amos
Kahata, 21, beat contestants from the five Ahi Ahi vilages - Ms Yalu Dodo Miul, Ms Kamkumung Jasmime Hasu, Ms Butibam Pamela Delabu, Ms Yanga Aito Aiten, and Ms Wagang Anna Sekep - to be crowned in front of a full house crowd of predominantly Ahi villagers.
Kahata was crowned by Ms Ahi 2010, Christine Amos, from Yanga village.
She received K3, 000 from major sponsor Riback Stevedores, K25, 000 infrastructure projects for her village, a tertiary scholarship, celebration costs for her village, and a laptop.
The four judges for the event included Lae-based beauty, Lorraine Rifu, who was earlier this year crowned Miss PNG 2012.
Ms PNG 2012 Lorraine Rifu and me
Kahata is an open and distance learning student at the University of Techology in Lae while working for Oxford Medical Supplies.
"I'm so proud of the work that Ahi Festival major sponsor, Riback Stevedores, and other sponsors, are doing to help our young people in the six Ahi villages in Lae," Kahata said.
"I hope to proudly carry out the work of Ms Ahi from 2012-2014."
There was no prouder person that night than her father, Ben John Kahata, who was with wife Taiyo to celebrate their daughter's win.
Miss Ahi 2012 Noelyn Kahata with her proud parents Ben John and Taiyo
"I'm very proud of my daughter," he said.
"I'm happy that she has made it."
Other prizes were for Ms Traditional (Ms Yalu), Judges' Choice (Ms Kamkumung), Second Runner-Up (Ms Butibam), First Runner-Up (Ms Yanga), and Ms Traditional (Ms Yanga).
They all received various prizes, biggest of which was tertiary scholarship.
George Gware, the hard-working operations manager of Riback and the man behind the festival, said the event had proven to be a success and the company and the Ahi Foundation would be working towards making it even bigger and better in 2014.
George Gware, Riback operations manager and the man behind the festival
Moreover, Miss Ahi could be taking part in Miss PNG, and an Ahi team could be taking part in the 2014 PNG Games in Lae – given the abundance in talent.
“Judging by the number of people coming for the four-day event, it’s a sign that the concept of the Ahi Festival is becoming very popular,” Gware said.
“Generally, it’s been very successful.
“We can use this as a launching pad for other events, for instance, the PNG Games in 2014.
“I’m very proud because a lot times, people talk only about the bad things in Lae.
“We hope that if the community can enforce concepts like the Ahi Festival, there will be other good things in Lae.
“We’re very happy with the Ahi community for their support.”

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