It’s not just a legend from a mythical place nor a fictional scene from a Hollywood blockbuster movie. With just the shake of special rattle seeds from the bush, striking of the deep blue sea with a stick, and blowing of a cone shell a shark is called up to the surface of the water and caught as if it were in some kind of obedience trance. Even the weather is controlled through a ritual to ensure the sea is smooth and calm.
Yes, this actually happens in real life without any help from modern weapons or technology. This ancient practice passed down from generations can only be found in particular parts of New Ireland Province including Messi and Kontu on the West Coast and Djaul to the North.
In a bid to preserve this dying ancient tradition the people of Messi decided it was time to reawaken the Shark calling festival after it was stopped for a number of years.
The two-day shark calling event was held at Messi from the 22nd to the 23rd of July this year. This was made possible through the support of the New Ireland Provincial Government, through the New Ireland Tourism Authority which also saw New Ireland Governor Sir Julius Chan officially open the event.
Other support for the Shark calling event also came from the National Control Gaming Board.
“ Hold onto your traditions so you and your future generations can appreciate where you came from. Without your cultural and traditional history you are like a tree without roots,” said New Ireland Governor, Sir Julius Chan.
Organizer and local John Merebo said there is a lot more that happens to the lead-up of the actual Shark calling event.
“It’s a whole body, mind, and spiritual process. Initiation begins in the Haus boi and involves a whole month of fasting and other restrictions to remain pure and clean before going out to sea,” explained Merebo.
It’s a sacred tradition and most of its information is kept secret within the confines of individual Hausboi’s.
Individual clans also have their own distinct Cone Shell calls, once a shark is caught and brought back to shore, the cone is blown to notify the clan that their clan member has caught a shark ready to share with the entire village.
“ Shark is a delicacy in our village and we’ve been eating it as long as we can remember. We mumu it and cook it in coconut cream. It’s a very healthy source of protein,” said Merebo.
On the second day of the event, the Chairman of the Special Parliamentary Committee for Tourism and Culture and member for Nawaeb in the Morobe province Kennedy Wenge and officers from the Tourism Promotion Authority were at the scene.
He officially announced that New Ireland’s Shark calling event would be Declared a National event in the TPA Calender.
The announcement was warmly welcomed by the locals.