An Australian volunteer who was doing whatever volunteers do in PNG.
I was there for 2 years until Dec 2005 .. I hope I made the most of it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

You Call That A Knife ...

Time to turn my discerning eye for all things cross-cultural and today it has landed on the PNG Bush Knife. Ahh the Bush Knife. Anyone who has ever been to PNG will know about these babies. Also known up here as a busnaip in Pidgin or a big-f@%#-off machete in English.

They are the ubiquitous New Guinea weapon come all purpose implement of choice here. Some how managing to leech into every corner of the country. There seems to be a bush knife for every man, woman and child. If not I am sure that during the next elections some politician will be giving them away free to get people to vote for him. When driving into town you would not be able to get there without seeing some guy on the side of the road walking with a big bunch of bananas over one shoulder and a bush knife swinging by his side.

Don't get me wrong I am not saying they are bad. I think they are great. I have got one in my laundry ready for all those bush knife related activities. PNG is probably one of the only countries in the world where it is expected you have a huge monster knife. In the first few weeks that I was in the country, before I had fully got my kitchen set up with all the pots and pans, resting up against the wall next to the washing machine was my bush knife. The guys in the office made a special trip out to a certain hardware store because they sold the best bush knife.

Not that it really matters because in terms of knife care they get treated like shit. Mine is looking decidedly dodgy now after all the weeding it has been doing. That and being used to chop up the compost heap when I throw on a new load of scraps. But once I have given it a bit of a sharpen with a file it can be back to use for more traditional purposes like trimming the hedge or lopping off useless limbs from the guava and frangipani trees.

My busnaip looking a bit worse for wear now

The average Joe Blow will probably more likely be cutting down bananas, a sugar cane or getting a ripe pineapple. Which reminds me I need to ask Martin if his haus meri took the ripe pineapple underneath the guava tree the other day, cause I will be pissed off if someone else has nicked it. There is a saying some of the other ex-pats have here, "how do you know when your pineapple is ripe? When it has disappeared".

Other good uses are more gardening related activities like as I said using it for weeding, edge trimming on a footpath and cutting grass. Although the last task here is not really suited to the bush knife and a special sword like knife called a sarep is required for this, which has a blade close to a metre in length. You don't want to be standing behind someone when they are swinging these around. Watching them being used though is impressive.

I am sure every week there would be scores of people checked in to local hospitals requiring a bit of repair work from a bush knife related injury. That is of course if they make it that far. On the front page of the Post-Courier a couple of months ago there was a story of a couple in a village in the southern highlands who had an argument, which obviously got a bit vicious, because the end result was the wife came out missing a head. Lesson learned: Bush knives don't kill people, people do.