A philosophers stone & the Sepik alchemist | Dr. Andrew Moutu

“From a man and a woman make a circle, then a square then a triangle, finally a circle and you will obtain a Philosophers Stone”. Michael Maiyer.

He came to Ludwig and his wife Kambe on the 9th of April 1936 in Matupit in the East New Britain. His father Ludwig Sana, had been serving as an officer with the native police in Rabaul at the time. In welcoming his appearance, the Tolai bestowed on him the name To Palangat which translates into an idea of firmness and fortitude, of a road and a pathway. It seem as though the ideas of similarity and difference, of height and breadth, were already there waiting for him on that journey to cut out and create a destiny.

Just before the onset of the second world war, the young Michael, had been taken back home to the littoral world of Murik Lakes, a tidal estuary where barrier beaches divide mangrove lagoons at the mouth of the Sepik River. During the war, he was educated in a Japanese run school in his Karau village. His first sense of foreign grammar and numerals were in Japanese.

As the war came to an end, he went west to Wewak to attend a primary school in Boram. From Wewak he went further back to the east to receive high school education in Dregerhaffen where he was exposed to the cultures and languages of the Finschaffen area of Morobe.

By 1957, he had gone on to matriculate at Sogeri which gave him qualifications, of Melbourne standards, to become a teacher in primary and secondary schools. It was there that he first encountered institutional racism through a dual salary system which discriminated expatriates from the locals. He returned again to Sogeri for further training between 1962 and 1963 and then made a switched in his teaching career to become a radio journalist where he found himself back in Wewak where he served as a broadcaster.

His journalism gave him a direct insight into the political machinations of his time. He was attentive, listening and learning the ropes of the trade. He then took up training in public administration at the Administrative College (Adcol)—now the Pacific Institute of Leadership and Governance—in Waigani.

His outspoken political commentaries made his superiors to become apprehensive so they organized for a shift in his career from journalism to public administration. It was at the Adcol that he and his Bully Beef Club members started and laid the foundations for Pangu Party in 1967 with a view towards getting self-government and independence for Papua New Guinea. In the following year in 1968, great Sepik leaders of the Araphesh stock, Pita Lus and Pita Simogun, convinced him to take on the path to dream a nation.

While preparations for self-government, including the consultations of the Constitutional Planning Committee were under way, the vibrant young leader had to return home to his Karau village in 1973 to be fully initiated into his heraldry and be appointed as a Sana, a noble peace maker.

For the Murik peace was not a just a ideal virtue, it has to be institutionalised in ritual procedures and operationalised in a personal way. And to put it more succinctly, if peace is likened to gold, then it has to be achieved through a process of close interactions and refinements as though it were a therapeutic alchemy.

This came through in his style of politics from his hey days to his demise: fiercely nationalistic and purportedly conciliatory. In his own autobiography, Sana’s pedagogy of war begins with inviting your enemy to the table for a feast before the fight. He appointed political enemies to posts in which they could exercise their interests and passions. It is in knowing them, that you can work with them in a productive politics of mutual engagement.It is as though the young Somare was always in tune with the ancient Greek poet and playwright, Aristophanes:

“From the murmur and the subtlety of suspicion with which we vex one another,

Give us rest. Make a new beginning,  and mingle again with the kindred of the nations in the alchemy of Love and with some finer essence of forbearance, Temper our mind”

Imagine if we get the idea that peace is both a person and a moral persona, Sana? Imagine the art of taking something ordinary and turning it into something precious and extraordinary? Imagine the use of heat and the mixing of liquids to create a new chemical compound?

Imagine a negotiation between water and stone which culminated in a work of art? Water and stone begin as unpromising ingredients of different endeavours. Artists use pigments made from fluids mixed together with powdered stones to give them colour.

If ceramic experts of Aibom or Markham use watery mud and heat to make their pots then oily mud is the comparable medium which artists work on in their paintings. If paintings or ceramics reveal a complex negotiation between water and stone, alchemy is concerned with the final outcome: to turn something as liquid as water into a substance as firm and unmeltable as a stone. The means are liquid and the ends are solid.

Alchemists work with mixtures of the stone and the water; they work with a mix bag of diversity. Imagine what kind of nation was the Sepik alchemist putting together as he worked to bring a nation of diversity into unity?

2 comments on “A philosophers stone & the Sepik alchemist | Dr. Andrew Moutu

  1. Reynick Erick Kharter Puno

    The ingredients added into this beautiful piece of writing is masterclass. Scott Waide You Are An Alchemist.

    On Tue, 2 Mar 2021, 7:09 am My land | My country, wrote:

    > Scott Waide posted: ” “From a man and a woman make a circle, then a square > then a triangle, finally a circle and you will obtain a Philosophers > Stone”. Michael Maiyer. He came to Ludwig and his wife Kambe on the 9th of > April 1936 in Matupit in the East New Britain. His fat” >


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