Once upon a time, a sky being called Kambal grew curious about the mountainous land below with the great river that flowed through it to the sea, which the gods had named Sepik. Kambal had been warned away from investigating such matters, but his curiosity, ever growing, finally drove him to descend to the earth, taking the form and dress of some local peoples called the Keraki.
As he looked about, reveling in the sights and smells and sounds of the dense jungle all about him he heard something very new to him. It was the sound of laughter, and he was drawn to it immediately and went to investigate. hiding in some bushes, he could see some local children fishing from the bank of the river, jostling each other and telling jokes as they grew weary of waiting for the fish. As he watched, a canoe with two men paddled by and they called out to the children to watch for crocodiles and be mindful of their fishing spears.
Kambal desired a closer look at the village he could see near by and turned himself into a Bird of Paradise, that he might fly over the village and get a birds eye view. He landed in the low fronds of a bent coconut palm and surveyed the surrounding village. Having no more than settled onto the frond, Kambal saw many of the villagers turn and stare in his direction, some of the women pointing and shouting out to the men in the meeting hut. Soon the men came running with their spears, and Kambal knew that he had made a mistake. Bird of Paradise feathers were highly prized among the Keraki, and Kambal was in great danger! As the first spear flew straight and true, Kambal vanished, turning himself into a rooster and appearing amongst the other domestic birds in the village grounds.
A small boy happened to be gazing at the spot where he appeared amidst all the excitement and quickly raised his club and swung at the rooster, killing him instantly. The village elders began remonstrating with the boy until he explained that the bird has appeared suddenly, and was not one of theirs.
That night a feast was prepared, and the magic rooster was the base of a special stew that was shared amongst all the peoples of the village in the hopes that whatever magic it possessed would bring them blessings.
Their hopes were realized the next morning when they all awoke to find they were imbued with the knowledge of good and evil, and that is how the Keraki came to be known as The Wise People of the Sepik.
[The photo is of a Papua New Guinea storyboard, a detailed carving, usually depicting village life. This one is unique in that it is unpainted. It graces a wall in our home.]