Being invited to an afternoon wogo saigia (pig roast) demonstrated to me the second of two extremely hospitable Moni cultural practices.
The first practice involved welcoming travelers into an nduni (men’s hut; seen in my last post). Each village or clan enclave provides an opportunity for travelers to rest or spend an evening in an nduni prior to continuing their travels. No cost is incurred by the traveler, but the customary expectation for reciprocation exists; that is, everyone is expected to offer respite for a traveler.
The second practice reflects a similar generosity and involves welcoming a visitor to a meal. If a guest joins a meal, whether invited (as in our case) or not (a “walk-in,” if you will), the expectation to extend an invitation and share that meal exists.
I am curious how these practices originated, but I might venture a guess that in terrain as rough as the highlands of Papua, a little generosity goes a long way in building alliances. I welcome your thoughts & comments.
The wogo saigia I experienced was primarily a celebration honoring a visiting missionary family (the folks who hosted me) who had spent much of their life and energy in this village. Such roasts are reserved for great occasions and typically become an all-day and extremely social event. A recent epidemic, however, had decimated a large part of the local pig population, so our wogo saigia wisely morphed into a saigia of veggies, hoga, and so wogo, rabbit. Super tasty as well!
Start by digging a hole in the ground large enough to hold all the veggies and meats that you wish to cook, as well as banana leaf linings and hot rocks needed to make this oven functional. Our host was serving approximately 20 people, so our hole was about a foot deep and 3 feet in diameter.
Gathering all the veggies and preparing the animals took a couple of hours. Of course, a healthy amount of friendly socializing & play kept the work of cooking festive, not unlike the outdoor bbqs of my childhood.
Everybody joined in to help prepare the rabbit, chicken, sweet potatoes, taro, corn, squash, and a variety of tasty greens.
A little bonfire heated the cooking rocks. Those rocks, transported via forked sticks into the waiting hands of someone who would wrap them in banana leaves, were then carefully placed into the oven.
Cover it all up with additional greens and roughly three hours later … voilà! …. a tasty celebration with plenty for all … including two uninvited, but welcomed – as per hospitable culture – guests.