Though they were not able to attend the State funeral in the nation’s capital nor display their grief in Lae city, the Morobe coastal community honoured the founding father in their own unique way.
Over 20 tiny canoes, lovingly carved by the students of Labu Miti Primary School, were pushed out to sea in a heart-rending memorial on Thursday, March 11th.
Dressed in black, students slowly marched alongside women’s group, Gejamsao, who sang a mourning song in their dialect as they proceeded towards the sea.
With flag bearers standing on either side of the procession and leading the way with an East Sepik and PNG flag, the women’s voices rose and fell in the still air.
Nestled between the rows were the children with their perfectly sculpted dugout canoes. Serving as sails were pictures of the late Grand Chief that were cut out from newspapers.
Located 15 minutes away from the mainland, the teachers were unable to access a colour printer in time. The students, however, had collected newspapers from their parents and shared the pictures with their peers.
The small group of less than 100 people walked somberly towards the sea.
Upon reaching the shore, the procession waited patiently with only the women’s song rising and falling with the waves.
The melancholy sound of a lone conch shell reached the seaside from somewhere out at sea. After the third blow, the small white canoes – some with Sir Michael’s smiling face, others with condolences and PNG flags – were placed on the water and gently pushed out.
The tiny vessels were left to the elements, with the students sending out little prayers that from the Huon Gulf, their message would reach the shores of Wewak.