The Kweika tribe in New Guinea which has a leader recognized as Ongka (big man) was the focus of the film. The willingness to give several gifts in Moka creating alliances and maintaining peace among tribes is what determines the authority of a man. To own uncountable wives and many pigs was the aspiration of the big man. To revive the tradition of exchanging gifts which the Ongka felt was fading away in his community since the younger generation assumed it, Ongka organized a Moka. It was the biggest Moka his tribe has ever indulged in. He scouted and gathered volunteers who would assist him as he went to deeper lengths to secure many pigs from his tribesmen (UtopianLove).
Having pigs in Ongka’s tribe provided the man with prestige and the right to acquire many wives who were to take care of the pigs. Additionally, pigs would settle disputes and warfare among tribes and forge alliances between families. For quarrels to be resolved between tribes, the pigs were offered during Moka. Therefore, pigs were associated with prestige and had acquired a significant symbol in the tribe.
In this specific Moka, Ongka had planned for ten years amassing pigs that totaled to six hundred. Apart from the pigs, Ongka had gathered other gifts to offer, and they included a motorcycle, rare birds, truck, and cattle. Moka provides a platform to gain or maintain prestige and get status. Therefore, Ongka uses Moka to elevate his status and gain fame for himself. Besides not being filmed, it is evident that Moka creates an element of competitiveness in the community as men try to outsmart one another in giving gifts. Ongka amassed the gifts and pigs with the intention of reciprocating the debt accumulated when Kawelka received Moka from Peruwa as well as provide surplus gifts.
As illustrated in the film, women are given the duty of rearing the pigs and Ongka had been married to four wives. The wives would take care of eight to ten pigs at a time. However, Ongka required the assistance of his tribesmen to ensure the Moka is successful. Ongka’s position in the community is merely a persuader in lieu commander. Therefore, to acquire the “big man” title, his plan required dedication, extra effort, leadership skills, and charisma. Ongka was a brilliant orator, which explained his capability to persuade people to collaborate during the Moka planning.
However, the Moka was not aired since the filmmakers had to leave because there were allegations of sorcery aimed at murdering another community‘s Big Man. Eventually, when the Moka occurred, it was rated as the most prominent Moka. Moka can be observed as an event that happens when one tribe is trying to repay the debt acquired after they received gifts from another tribe. With the attachment of prestige and providing prestige to the Big Man and the tribe, Moka happens regularly.
In Kawelka, pigs are equivalent to money since it could be utilized to pay anything including getting a wife and compensating for trouble. Therefore, pigs are not only perceived as a source of food in the community but also as a source of wealth and prestige with the community. Either individually or as a community, pigs were considered as practical animals for investing. It is clear that Kawelka people value the act of reciprocity through gifting something valuable.
UtopianLove. “Ongka’s Big Moka.” YouTube, 22 January 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D8o0mHSKMk. Accessed 14 November 2017.