Orokolo - History and Cultural Relations

European contact along the Gulf of Papua began well before the turn of the century and was quite extensive. Missionaries and labor recruiters were active, and the entire area was considered "controlled" before 1912. By 1919, there were reports of the "Vailala Madness"—one of the first recorded manifestations of a Melanesian cargo cult—among the Orokolo. These cargo cults are generally thought to be linked to mental confusion surrounding rapid sociocultural change associated with European contact and to a breakdown of traditional Culture. "Vailala Madness" involved mass hysteria, in which large numbers of people became giddy, appeared to lose Control of their limbs, and reeled about. This condition was known locally as haro heraipe, meaning "one's head is turning around." These psychosomatic symptoms were associated with teachings that the spirits of the dead would return and that the old ceremonies and cultural practices should be eliminated. In Eastern Orokolo villages, bullroarers and masks associated with sacred ceremonies were taken from men's houses and burned in front of women and uninitiated boys. After several years, however, traditional practices were resumed in this area on a more limited basis.

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