Watching the film clips really made me think of what it must be like to live like they did in the film. But then I go to thinking we kind of do live just the Kawelka people. Moka is referred to as the gifts that they give to other tribes. The purpose of Moka is not just the giving and receiving, it is repaying what someone has given you but with interest, almost like taking out a loan at the bank and having to pay it back with interest or paying taxes.
It runs deeper than that, Moka is also a way of getting status, by Ongka giving the Moka and outdoing his fellow men by the quantity of Moka he gives will earn him fame and higher status not only for himself but for his tribe. The most valuable thing that Ongka has got to give is pigs. Pigs are not just pigs; Ongka said that if money looks after the white people, pigs look after them. Pigs are their strong thing; if you don’t have pigs then you are nobody.
I think that there are some comparisons between their society and the society we live in currently. Ongka is a business man in some respects, he had a goal, that goal was to give the grandest Moka. He came up with a plan, he went and got buy in from his family, friends and tribes people. He invested with them and them with him; he did not put all his eggs in one basket but spread the investments so that he could reach his goal. People do that today as well, invest in multiple things so that if on avenue does not work, then there are other options.
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I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see the final big Moka, Ongka seemed like he was so looking forward to the celebration. I was also interested to know that they had raised $10,000 Austrailian dollars. That’s a lot of money for the 70’s and to know how hard they must have worked to get that money and then to give it away to another tribe must be difficult for some. This may be a silly question, but what happens to the 600 pigs, once the other tribe receives them?
on Ongka’s Big Moka
...In the film “ Ongka’s Big Moka ” Ongka who is a Big Man of the Kawelka tribe in New Guinea, is arranging a moka in honor of a neighboring tribe. As a big man the only way to maintain this social leadership position is through mokas which bring fame and status amongst others in a tribe.
By the time the filmmakers were to leave New Guinea, Ongka’s big moka was postponed due to the accused sorcery to kill another tribe’s Big Man. However, later Ongka managed to accomplish his moka with 600 pigs, 12 cassowaries, 8 cows, 10,000 Australian USD, a truck and a motorbike; the biggest moka ever given (Ongka’s Big Moka).
Moreover, Ongka needs the help of others in his tribe to be successful in the moka. However his position in his tribe is not as a commander but solely persuader. Thus a lot of effort, time and leadership skills or charisma seem to be required to achieve the ‘big man’ status.
Andrew Strathern served as consulting anthropologist for the film. In Ongka's Big Moka Ongka, a New Guinea Big man, is seen preparing a Moka exchange. The film follows Ongka's struggles to accumulate huge numbers of pigs and other items of value to present at a Moka ceremony to another tribe.
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