One of the most widespread traditions here in Papua, common among many of the various people groups, is the pig roast. Pigs are worth a lot of money and meat in general is a rarity, so pig roasts only happen on special occasions. We recently visited the village of Iratoi with a missionary family and witnessed this tradition firsthand. The community decided to kill a pig in honor of this special occasion.
Roasting a pig is a lot of work and everyone in the community pitches in to help. The process starts early in the morning with the men going out to bring back firewood and the women gathering greens from their gardens. The women carry all of their loads (including babies!) in bags called nokens on their heads.
The next step in the process is to find and kill the pig. In Iratoi, the pigs are raised on the other side of the river away from the village to keep them from getting into the gardens. These pigs are a little wild so the chosen one for the feast is hunted with a bow and arrow. A pig can be brought down with one arrow if it is aimed just right!
The pig (now dead) is carried over to the waiting fire where the corse hair is burned and scraped off by a stick. Once the skin is completely bare, it’s time to cut up the pig for roasting (we’ll spare you any photos from that part of the process).
Next the fire is built up again and stones are placed on top of the fire to heat up. A shallow pit is dug and giant leaves are placed all around the hole.
Everyone helps bring the smoking rocks over to the pit with giant tweezer-like sticks. More greens are stacked on top and another layer of rocks are carried over and wrapped in leaves before going on the pile. The fearless women “catching” the rocks only have a leaf in between the extreme heat and their hands!
Finally the pig is brought over and placed on top and the entire bundle is wrapped up tight to keep in the heat.
An hour or so later, it’s feast time! Everyone waits patiently with their families while the meat is cut up and distributed to each group one at a time along with greens and sweet potatoes.
Yum! We were honored by the community’s hard work to bring us such a delicious meal and their willingness to share this rich Papuan tradition.