071217 – Clothing with Upe Design, a concern to culture bearer
By – Theresa Baranangko
Clothing with Upe design has stirred many disagreements between women wearing shirt with Upe design and the cultural group that protects the primary purpose of Upe culture which also promotes and upholds the dignity of Bougainville.
The Upe is a sacred hat that is won by young lads in special parts of Bougainville during ritual period. The hat covers their long braids which they develop overtime and are shaved off after completing their ritual practices from the period between adolescence to men hood. During this period, women or girls are not allowed to see or even go near to these sacred places.
This culture is practiced in parts of Kunua, Tinputz, Aita and Wakunai. It is against the culture to see women wearing clothing with Upe Design because of the respect that had develop over the years.
Hellen Kevin, a village observant said in respect to her culture that women should not be wearing clothing containing Upe which is traditionally considered sacred and practised only by men.
On a recent incident, two women from Wakunai openly told female customers at a road side market selling shirt with Upe Design to stop dishonoring the traditional culture by wearing the upe shirt.
On behalf of the people from the areas where Upe is practiced, Mrs. Kevin said that women must not wear any designs with Upe even if they think they are promoting Bougainville because this was the custom practiced even before Upe was officially decided as Bougainville’s provincial emblem therefore Bougainvillians must respect the culture that still promotes Upe.