Origin of the Eagle and Crocodile Clans by Claytus YambonOrigin of the Eagle and Crocodile Clans by Claytus Yambon
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Origin of the Eagle and Crocodile Clans

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Story as told by Claytus Yambon in Korogo Village, May 2008: Once upon a time, there were two good mates who lived together, worked together, and played together, enjoying each others' company all the time. Some things they did were virtuous, but others were mischievous. One time after hunting together, one mate asked, 'How did you hunt?' The other replied, 'You wouldn't believe what happened. I stopped to go swimming, and I saw a pig down there underwater.' The first man was amazed, and he went and waited a long time to see the pig, but the pig did not appear. Finally, he realized that his friend was joking, and he thought up a way to get back at him. So their friendship continued in this way. But once this joking went too far. One day, one of the men experimented with cooking a special combination of yam, sago, and coconut. It was so delicious that he invited his mate to share a meal. 'Whoa! How did you make this amazing meal?' his mate asked. The man said, 'Shhh! This meal is very secret. Don't ever tell anyone what I tell you. Go home by yourself, cut off one side of your wife's breast, put it in a pot, boil it, add some sago, stir it up, then you'll get the taste of this meal.' Unfortunately, the other believed him. He went home and got his bamboo- in those days, they used bamboo for blades- and he asked his wife to come closer, then quickly cut off her breast. His wife screamed and was very upset, but instead of helping his wife or making the meal, the man just cried and cried until his wife bled to death. Then he was very angry with his mate, and thought, 'What can I do now to get back at my mate and his family?' He thought and thought, then he remembered a magic word that his father had told him. This word could change things. So he went to the bush and cut two logs, one kwila and one garamut.1 He made a big fence around the logs away from home, and during the following year, he carved them into two crocodiles. He dug a big hole with water for each of them, then made magic until they transformed into real crocodiles. The kwila became the freshwater crocodile, called kwarluk (the larger of the two I've carved), and the garamut became the saltwater crocodile, miambwak. They came out at night and moved around. If the relatives of the man's mate went anywhere, they attacked. The mate was afraid, and went and hid himself. His clan suffered for his problem. But after a while he began thinking of revenge. He thought and thought, and then he remembered the magic of his clan. There were two fierce eagles who lived in the jungle, up the blue mountain in Chambri Lakes.2 They came down to hunt people and animals. The suffering clan collected betel nuts, pigs, and other valuable things and paddled all the way to Chambri Lakes. Using magic words, they invited the eagles to help them hunt the two crocodiles. The eagles flew down, following the clan back, and they came to the place where the man and his crocodiles were. My carving shows the big fight that followed. But both sides were so strong that neither was hurt. When they separated, the crocodiles went downriver and left the water. They had a lot of family together, and now they live there. The two mates never saw one another again. This explains the origin of the eagle and crocodile clans, and why even today, tension still exists between them. That's the end of the story, but I want to explain a bit more about it. The two clans were of the same people, people from the mountains, from Yangoru area. The story happened as they came to this place, where a new river was breaking through the soil. Suapmeri, the first village of the Iatmul tribe, is where they settled. The tribe stayed there for a long time, then they split up and some started following the current downstream. They paddled down to Tambanum and beyond, to the mouth of the Sepik River, and formed the crocodile clan, called Samiangwat, or by the name of its spiritual protector, Wariyagwi. The eagle clan, settling from here to Japandai, founded the village of Nyaurunge, mother village of the Nyauru tribe, whose spiritual name is Mindungori. A third clan, the pig clan, founded the village of Palembei, and the clan is known by that name, as well as its spiritual name of Jimbe. These are the three subtribes of the Iatmul people. But these tribes didn't stay put. People paddled up and down the river, and they intermarried, so now we have a mixture of clans, and people travel back and forth to see their families. My clan is eagle; my wife's is crocodile. That's why I carved this piece. 1. Kwila, also known as mermau, is of the species Intsia bijuga Garamut is Vitex cofassus. Both are hardwoods traditionally used on the Sepik as carving woods and building materials for houses and canoes. Kwila is now endangered from massive logging for export, mainly to China, New Zealand, and Australia. 2. Chambri Lakes are south of Claytus' home, Korogo Village. Claytus told this story with asides and gestures around him to indicate where different parts of the action took place.

Artwork Information

Location Papua New Guinea
Region Papua New Guinea
Artist Claytus Yambon
NWC Nation N/A
Date Created 2011
Dimensions 69 x 15 x 20 cm / 86 x 13 x 20 cm
Materials & Edition kwila wood, shells, natural pigments

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