Cassowary WomanCassowary Woman
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Cassowary Woman

Arnold J. Ambu

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The Legend of the Cassowary Woman

As told by Mastercarver Arnold Ambu of Kaminibit village

Long ago there lived a man in a village without a wife. His parents had died when he was a small boy and he was raised by his grandparents. He had never been loved by a woman and he was very lonely.

One morning he got up early, took his bows and arrows and went into the bush. He hunted all day but he didn’t find any pigs, wallabies or cassowaries. He felt very tired so he sat beside a pool to rest before he would go home. It was late in the afternoon when heard the footsteps of cassowaries from behind the bushes. He hid to watch them as they approached. Suddenly, he saw them come straight to the pool. They took off their skins as if they were costumes and underneath were the human bodies of women. They jumped into the water to wash. After they washed they changed back into their costumes and as cassowaries took off to the jungle. The man sadly left his hiding place, feeling very disappointed as he really wanted to marry one of those ladies.

Early next morning he returned to the same place to hide and wait for the cassowaries to come and wash. Soon they arrived and once more took off their skins. The lonely man crawled out of hiding and hid the skin of the youngest one. After washing, the women jumped back into their skins and took off to the jungle leaving the youngest behind. She searched everywhere but it was not to be found. She began to cry for her skin. Meanwhile the man left his hiding place and came out to see her. He asked he ‘Why are you crying’ ? She replied ‘Oh good man, I’m crying for my skin, somebody stole it and I can no longer follow my friends. The man just laughed because he loved the cassowary woman. He said, ‘don’t cry and worry about your skin because it is getting late and soon it will be dark and you won’t find it. Tomorrow I will help you find it and then you can return to your friends.’

The two went to the man’s village with the cassowary skin hidden in his bilum (string bag). Later they were married, raised a family and lived happily ever after. That is the story of how the cassowary tribe came to my village. It is the story of my ancestors, because my father is from the cassowary tribe and so am I.

Artwork Information

Location Oceanic
Region Papua New Guinea
Artist Arnold J. Ambu
NWC Nation N/A
Date Created No
Dimensions 42" x 11" x 8"
Materials & Edition wood, shells, bush fibres and natural pigments

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