Life histories have a recognized place in the roster of ethnographic genres of writing, whether they are translated autobiographies or are biographies put together by the anthropologist and translated for a reading public. We have discussed these issues at some length in ‘Identity Work: Constructing Pacific Lives’ (Pamela J. Stewart and Andrew Strathern eds. 2000, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press). We have also published in 1999 an autobiography (self-account) by the famous Kawelka group leader from Mt. Hagen, Ongka-Kaepa, originally recorded and translated from the Melpa language by Andrew Strathern in 1979. The new 1999 version further included life-history materials by one of Ongka’s daughters (Yara). The 1999 volume has the title ‘Collaborations and Conflicts: a Leader Through Time’, (Andrew Strathern and Pamela J. Stewart) Harcourt College Publishers, Fort Worth, Texas.
We include here some materials of a further kind, mingling personal and clan histories, relating to Kawelka origins and historical narratives from Mt. Hagen, taken from ‘Stories, Strength, and Self-Narration’ (Andrew Strathern and Pamela J. Stewart) Crawford House Publishing, Adelaide, Australia.
All of these materials foreground the diverse voices of the people themselves, allowing readers to gain an impression, via translation, of the vivid consciousness, powers of narration, and insightful accounts that they give of their own life-worlds.