Pig, symbol of justice and peace in West Papua

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PIGS In the highlands of New Guinea, on the western rim of Melanesia, pigs are central to religious and social life, their blood sanctifying land for ceremony, and opening marriage negotiations between families. They underpin the village economy, and are sold if cash is required for school fees or a funeral. They are still an important form of compensation in the art of Melanesian peace-making.

YABON was born in rural Victoria to be vacuum-packed for a Coles Christmas hamper. Instead, as companion to West Papua independence leader Jacob Rumbiak, he became an important symbol for peace and justice, and a reminder of West Papuans Melanesian identity.

JACOB RUMBIAK “It was amazing how my pig created space for West Papua in Australia. When I walked about with him, people talked to me. Teachers asked me to address their students. Journalists rang for stories. An old chief from home rang and said ‘Son, are you really taking our culture to that country?’”

Jacob Rumbiak, his pig Yabon, and war correspondent John Martinkus. Interviewed by Rachel Kerr, ABC-JJJ Radio, 9 October 2002

Risking the Sacred by Margaret Coffey, ABC-RN 2003 Encounter Series, 5 Oct 2003 (60’)

Main photo: Yabon and Jacob, Aboriginal Welcome Ceremony, Yumi Wantaim Seminar, 15-16 Sept 2001 (Kel Dummett)

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