Kiriwina Honors Rev. Dr. Ralph and Margaret Lawton with an annual event ‘Lawton Day’. Kamatokisi Kiriwina

Inaugural ‘Lawton Day’ event 21st April 2023

After the recent unrest in Kiriwina, a real celebration of love and life was called for, and that is precisely what we got at the inaugural ‘Lawton Day’ celebrations held on the 21st of April 2023, combined with a CFK reporting trip.  

We are incredibly pleased to report that although we have not been able to visit Kiriwina for 3.5 years to run our annual VBA training events due to COVID and the lack of flights to Kiriwina, the training that we had managed to put in place before COVID and the other CFK projects have continued to grow and flourish due to incredible teamwork and tenacity of the Kiriwinan people and our wonderful sponsors and donors.

At the invitation of Bishop Agabu Entonio and the PNG United Church, a small group of dim dims from Australia, including all three of their children and families, we have recently attended the memorial and burial service of Rev Dr Ralph “Iyupalilaguyau Lotoni” and Marama Margaret Lawton, where their ashes were interred in a new memorial on Oyabia Station. Images and videos cannot truly convey these amazing celebrations, sights, sounds and emotions. The Kiriwinans know how to celebrate life, and a sample of what we have managed to record of the proceedings can be found on the CFK website and a piece written by one of our intrepid life travellers and best friends, Daydd Kelly. As we have grown to expect from Daydd, he has penned a unique perspective of the events he called Chairing for Kiriwina below. We are creating a video of the event, which will be posted once completed :). 

We also held productive meetings with VBA representatives to follow up on progress and discuss plans for our subsequent training sessions, which we hope to run later in the year.

Other Photos from the trip:

Chairing for Kiriwina by Daydd Kelly

In which eight travel to an island and sit down….

    I think it was in Salamo that we first met them… After five hours bobbing about on the Bishops’ boat, hugging the west coast of Normanby Island out of East Cape, we dock at the fantastical Salamo jetty, to a welcoming song, speeches and prayers. Then our eight curvaceous, white companions emerge (little did we realise how close we would become…). For of course we must sit, on plastic chairs, to eat the delicious lunch prepared for us.These same charming chairs are to travel with us, trip the tropics and cradle us in their ergonomic arms. Whenever standing proves too tiring, they are there, on deck, for the next ten hours as day falls to night and chairs become beds.
    They go their own way after we land at Losuia, at 1.30am, to do what chairs will do when there is no-one watching, as balmy tropical breezes flow free under a fingernail moon. In the morning we are on a schedule, walking to Oyabia, processing between flower throwing school kids, to find beneath a strung shade sail, our chairs… Patiently waiting in the sweltering heat, together we listen to song, speeches and prayers before we epoxy the Lawton parents into their monumental tomb. Then the ceremony of sagali unfolds as walking basket trees come one by one to offer themselves up. Later that afternoon the chairs and we, share a late lunch feast with songs, speeches and prayers.
    We are bonding. They are light, easily transported, cleanable, flexible, easy going and comfortable, whats not to like? Next day we head in for some ‘traditional dancing’, only to find that yesterdays ceremony may understandably, have been exertion enough. Nobody is there. Except of course for our chairs who we meet for a light luncheon feast of taro and yams before heading across to Kavataria village where a boat was being refuelled for a proposed fishing expedition in the strait between Kiriwina and Keiluna.
    The chairs kept us company as we waited and watched over village life. Children and pigs came and went, frisbees were flung. It was fish catching day Saturday, with a whole aquarium passing us by strung on poles on the way to market. At the beach we pass mounds of fresh caught fish on tarps along with crabs and some unfortunate turtles. Three of us step into a twenty foot banana boat with five kavatarians, a massive outboard and some cunning trawling lures crafted from plastic bags. Inevitably perhaps, three plastic chairs are also boarded (the adventurers/adventchairers of the seating world! ). We are unable to use them owing to the boat profile but they sit proudly in the bow, observant of the five fish caught, but sadly unable to partake in the magnificent tuna steaks we shared later that evening. 
    We meet again, the chairs and us, in the sweating heat of a church service in Kavataria and then outside afterwards for further feasting, songs and prayer. Also at the subsequent Oyabia farewell dinner with our generous hosts, the fabulous flywavers, cooks and dancers. Sadly the chairs did not accompany us to Kaibola on the north coast as it was felt that the Toyota was already at capacity with some seventeen travellers onboard. But the next morning they were up earlier than us and aboard the Alotau 2, for the return journey to Salamo and a late encore there in another feast at the end of a long muddy jungle track. They were our final company at five thirty the next morning, singing the sad songs of Sonny and Chair… before we sailed into the sun, and back to East Cape
    We had thought that was the last we would see of our plastic pals… But on our final night we had been invited for dinner at five, at the Alotau Uniting Church, and had unexpectedly and perhaps rashly arrived on time at the stated hour. A clearer interpretation of PNG time would of course have indicated that a six or six thirty arrival was intended. Sure there may not have been much activity at five but reliable as always, there are eight plastic chairs and we are reunited, together again with our memories and our friends. Now its a party!
[ with heartfelt thanks for the generosity of our hosts and the enduring magnificence of Milne Bay!…]