Academic clarifies use of ‘maimai’ title

The traditional title of ‘maimai’ should not be carelessly used for all New Ireland Province.

UPNG Political Science academic *Patrick Kaiku, who is also a New Irelander, says maimai (chief) is a specific leadership title of the people of Tikana or generally, the Kavieng area.

“There are rituals, usually connected to the Malagan ceremonies that are specific to this leadership style of the Tikana clans.

“The Namatanais have their own indigenous names for leadership titles – I believe kabasit is the title. In New Hanover we have the Passingan title, and so on and so forth.”

Kaiku was responding to queries from Loop PNG regarding the initiation of Patrick Pruaitch into the Namatanai society on December 15th.

He was asked whether the initiation of outsiders would, in any way, cheapen New Ireland’s traditional standing and rituals.

In response, Kaiku said there is no indication that these ceremonies are taken seriously.

“These are simply formalities that give meaning to political leaders and their associates, from other parts of the country or overseas, who visit New Ireland Province.

“Traditional leadership has legitimacy in its context, either in the clan or village - the administration of disputes, mediating on land and genealogy, custodianship of indigenous knowledge, etc.

“I am not worried at all that it is devaluing the leadership titles and traditions of New Ireland because New Irelanders know who the ‘authentic’ traditional leaders are - leaders who are with them in every circumstances of their daily living. All other ‘visitors’ are simply accorded the respect and ceremony as a way to build relationships and solidify political alliances.

“This is perhaps the intention of Walter Schnaubelt in his relationship with Patrick Pruaitch.”

(Loop filepic of Malagan dancers at Kavieng, New Ireland. Though the Malagan tradition is principally concerned with honouring the dead, it also celebrates the vibrancy of the living. Malagan masks are generally made of wood, vegetable fiber, pigment and shell [turbo petholatus operculum])

(*Patrick Kaiku teaches Diplomacy and International Relations in the Political Science Department of University of Papua New Guinea. He has been a teaching fellow in the Politics Department since 2011.)

Carmella Gware