One day, long, long ago, a man was fishing on the reef, and he saw something out to sea. It appeared to be an island, but it moved. He ran to the beach shouting ‘’An island is coming here’’, and quickly the people gathered on the beach to watch a sailing ship approach and anchor off the reef. The inhabitants of this island came ashore, and our island-world ceased to be. The world exploded, and our island became a remote outpost …the last place in a country which has few centres and much remoteness – (Luana, 1969 : 15)

In the mid-1960s I spent 14 months in the Central Highlands of New Guinea studying the agricultural system of the Enga people, this in the context of my doctoral research in the Research School of Pacific Studies, as it was then called. For much of this time I lived among the Raiapu Enga, on the southern slopes of the Lai Valley, overlooking the patrol post, mission station and airstrip at Wapenamanda. The Aruni – their clan name – at Sabakamádá built a house for me on the edge of their ceremonial ground, welcomed me into their homes and gardens, and responded with surprising patience,…

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