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St Xavier s College XISR

NT-DNT Project
Pratiksha Deolekar (FYBA) Roll No- 131
(The Shark Callers of Kontu)

Cyril Jose (FYBA) Roll No- 48 (The Snake Charmers)

The Shark caller of Kontu depicts the ancient tradition of shark calling in the village of Kontu, on the remote west coast of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea: It is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea
and numerous offshore islands (the western portion of the island is a part of the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua). It is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, in a region defined since the early 19th century as Melanesia. The capital is Port Moresby.

Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries on Earth, with over 850 indigenous languages and at least as many traditional societies, out of a population of just under seven million. It is also one of the most rural, as only 18% of its people live in urban centres. The Indonesian province of Papua and West Papua in the island of New Guinea is home to an estimated 44 uncontacted tribal groups.[5] Isolated tribes have been reported also in the eastern Indonesian islands. The island nation of Papua New Guinea is home to some 700 Papuan and Melanesian tribes.The country is one of the world¶s least explored, culturally and geographically, and many undiscovered species of plants and animals are thought to exist in the interior of Papua New Guinea. . Large areas of New Guinea are yet to be explored by scientists and anthropologists due to a lack of safety. The majority of the population lives in traditional societies and practice subsistence-based agriculture. These societies and clans have some explicit acknowledgement within the nation's constitutional framework. The PNG Constitution (Preamble 5(4)) expresses the wish for "traditional villages and communities to remain as viable units of Papua New Guinean society", and for active steps to be taken in their preservation.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is home to hundreds of distinct traditional social groups, or tribes, many of which have only recently been in contact with the outside world. While some groups number in the thousands, many have just a few hundred members. Over 800 languages are spoken in PNG, and tribal identities and traditions remain fundamental to the fabric of Papua life. After being ruled by three external powers since 1884, Papua New Guinea gained its independence from Australia in 1975. It remains a realm of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Papua New Guinea. Many people live in extreme poverty, with about one third of the population living on less than US$1.25 per day. The Shark Callers: The Shark callers of Kontu depict the ancient tradition of shark calling in the village of Kontu, on the remote west coast of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. The village of Tembin, and its conjoined neighbour, Kontu, are the only two villages in all of Papua New Guinea¶s many islands where the ancient practice of shark calling has survived.

The shark callers of Kontu are the one who made people aware of the relationship of man and shark. In this time, sharks were not really ferocious, such that they were called sea dogs. Shark has over streamed bodies. In this over streamed bodies, it has fully cartilaginous skeletons (cartilaginous skeleton is made up of cartilage which is stiff and inflexible connective tissue. It is found in many areas in the human bodies of humans like ears, nose, joints between bones, etc.) Sharks have five to seven gills for respiration. Their skin has an outer protection called dermal denticles. This improves the fluid dynamics of the shark.

Sharks come in different sorts of shapes and also sizes. They start from dwarf lantern sharks to great big white sharks.

Sharks feed on squid, plankton and other fishes. They are found in salt and fresh water. They do not have swimming bladders. Instead, they rely on their large livers filled with oil for buoyancy. They sink when they stop swimming.

Sharks need to swim constantly to breathe. They don¶t sleep often. There are species that has spiracles (he spiracle is a small hole behind each eye that opens to the mouth in some fishes) that gives more chances to have a stationery rest at the bottom of the ocean.

The life span varies per species. Most of them live from 20 to 30 years. Only spine dogfish has a record of more than one hundred years. Sharks are considered nature¶s hardy predator. There have been recorded videos already capturing the viciousness of sharks.

Sharks have very powerful jaws, growing more than twenty thousand teeth in one lifetime. Shark teeth are easily replaced when lost. This is why it is easy for them to eat humans.

Sharks also prey on a lot of other fishes in the ocean. But no matter how aggressive and dangerous they look, there is one thing that sharks cannot eat. That is a puffer fish. A puffer fish bloats like a balloon as a defense mechanism when they sense an imbalance in their surroundings. Its sharp needles hurt the mouth of a shark when they are swallowed.


The brains of sharks are mainly for smelling to locate their prey. This makes them good predators. Their eyes have mirror like layers that make them see clearly in murky waters. And they can smell their prey even from far distances.

The sharks have Ampullae of Rorenzini, which is an electro receptor organ. This receptor organ alerts or gives them a keen feeling of vibration whenever there is potential prey. Another thing that one should know is that sharks have great listening abilities that it can hear the sound of the prey even if the prey are miles away.

Sharks also have a unique boneless skeleton. Instead, these skeletons are composed of tough and elastic cartilage. Their body is rounded, tough-skinned and streamlined. This helps them swim very efficiently. They can move their bodies with great maneuverability. One thing that aids their swimming capabilities is an oversized liver that is full of oil. Swimming keeps a sharks body from sinking.

There are many species under the shark family tree, each species having unique characteristics. One interesting kind of shark is the Swell Shark, commonly found in New Zealand. It emits sounds similar to a barking dog.

Lastly, another interesting fact about sharks is that most of them reproduce like humans. Some species lay eggs. But majority of sharks give birth to baby sharks. Mommy sharks can have six to twelve babies at one time. The tiger shark can give birth to as many as forty sharks in one pregnancy. For centuries, the villagers of Kontu, in Papua New Guinea, have gone to sea in frail outrigger (An outrigger is a part of a boat's rigging which is rigid and extends beyond the side of a boat.) canoes (canoe is a small narrow boat,) to call, trap, and kill sharks by hand. Now, after a hundred years of colonization and missionary activity, only a few men still understand the magic rituals of shark calling. The Shark Callers of Kontu illustrates the effects of cultural contact on the shark calling traditions.


Shark callers have to be male. They cannot eat wild pig or crayfish, nor accept any food from the hand of a fertile woman for 24 hours before the excursion. They must take care not to step on any excrement lying on the beach. And they cannot have sex. The caller always preferred mako shark, because the community believed that the spirits of the ancestors resided in its body. And they believe that it was calling their ancestors that caused the shark to come. THE MAKO SHARK

Other than PNG the shark calling ceremony also takes place in other islands like Vanuatu. The hunter goes alone in the sea with a small pirogue. To awaken the spirits, the caller anoints himself and his canoe with secret herbs. Then he paddles out to the reef and symbolically spears the coral to arouse the spirit of Moro - the shark god. This done, he takes out a larung, a rattle fashioned out of bamboo and coconut shells (left picture above), and begins shaking it in the sea. Finally, he chants the age-old songs of the shark. If the shark answers the call, the hunter entices it to the side of his canoe and, softly stroking it, slips a loop of vine over its head. Once the shark is around the boat, the hunter catches it through a lasso (right picture above). The lasso is also a malangan, a sacred tool for the tribe. Once the shark is dead, the hunter blows a shell horn, and comes back as a hero to the village.

The people of Kontu associate the sharks with spiritual forces and believe men can control these spiritual forces to their own advantage, or, through correct ritual, protect themselves from harm if they come in contact with the sharks. Now the base of their culture has shifted. The influence of Western culture and Christian beliefs has brought many changes to the islands. Some of the more complex rituals associated with shark calling have been lost over the years. A documentary film has also been made on the shark callers called µThe Shark Callers of Kontu¶ in 1986 which was directed by Dennis O¶Rourke. Making this very old and extraordinary practice the spine of the film, the filmmaker also weaves in a compelling portrait of the daily life of the villagers. The film explores the changes to cultural values and traditional customs wrought by colonisation, alcohol, commerce and Christianity. Also a book named µThe Shark callers¶ is written by Eric Campbell on these tribes. When the men who now practice shark calling die, this unique and dangerous practice will probably die with them.