Ongka's Big Moka- New Guinea (An Essay For Anthropology)
Ongka's Big Moka
A Moka is almost like a festival. Pigs, presents and food are given from the Big-Men hosting it to other Big-Men and villagers. To give more gifts than any other Big-Man would gain him the most status. Of course in almost any society, being generous is not always a charitable practice. The Big-Man hosting the party expects not only to gain status and respect, but also to some day be repaid. After all, it can take years to prepare for just one Moka. Alot of conspiring goes on to choose the right date, if anything goes wrong then they must choose a new one. In the movie after Ongka chooses a date, not only does a Big-Man from an enemy tribe mysteriously die. But also a competing Big-Man starts trouble by saying he was the one that killed the enemy Big-Man with sorcery.
Ongka feels like the most important part of his life is his Moka. He had prepared for it for 5 years. What I noticed to be a very important attribute is his patience. He seemed to be wise enough to just wait, plan, and conspire, even though he just wanted to get it over with. To have that kind of self controls speaks wonders about a person. He was also very thrifty, and knew how to save money. The fact that the community had an income, yet they stayed with their traditions instead of becoming globalized is very suprising to me.
Another important characteristic was how he spoke. He was very influential, stern, and relentless. If he wanted something done he would constantly let that person know that it needed to be done. It was really almost annoying. Which seemed to work on his behalf, because people would do what he wanted just to get him to leave them alone. It wasn't just that he was a nag though. Ongka was so good at speaking and influencing that he stopped mourning warriors from killing someone that they thought killed their Big-Man. To be so influential that you can stop enraged warriors from an enemy band is pretty amazing.
He had many wives to help take care of the many pigs that he accumilated over the years for his Moka. The fact that he could afford 5 wives was an achievement on its own. I think that having a support group is a very helpful benefit to being a Big-Man, even if its not really a characteristic. Through his 5 wives he had many in-laws and extended relatives that no doubt wanted the best for speficially their girl. Whats better for a daughter than to be married to a very important, successful Big-Man? So even if they did not truly like him, they still were biased towards him instead of another Big-Man.
Big-Men have no offical leadership or laws on their side. Its a status that is hard to gain, but easily taken away. Usually an elder man, the Big-Man must constantly compete with other Big-Men for the highest status. Since its just an informal postition, Big-Man must gain respect and influence through example. To just talk and not do would be a disgrace upon his name, so often times you will find Big-Men participating in common chores. He can not command, but instead give advice. Reciprocity and redistribution is manipulated by competing Big-Men to gain status. Hosting a Moka is a very important tradition that gains the Big-Man alot of status. Patience, speech making, hard-working, influential, relentless and generousity are all important attributes you should find in a Big-Man. Ongka had all of these.