THE ANCIENT LEGEND OF EDAI BOERA
Motuan legend has it that during a time of failing harvests, starvation and malady, a fisherman called Edai Boera was out on the water minding his own business. Suddenly, Divara – his eel spirit – capsized his boat and dragged him to the depths of the ocean where he schooled Edai in how to make a large seafaring vessel called a Lakatoi.
“The Lakatoi,” said the giant eel “will be the answer to all your problems.” Edai returned to the surface and his village where he shared his experience before setting about constructing the giant vessel.
He carved two large canoes and lashed them together into a single hull. He added a platform, a shelter, two large masts and the characteristic Crab-Claw Sails. The Lakatoi was then loaded with ornaments and specialities of the area, including clay pots, and set off on the journey west to trade with the people of Gulf Province.
Several months after the Lakatoi's departure, the easterly winds turned north-westerly and the vessel returned, crammed with treasures of taro, sago, betelnut and timber. The Hiri, or trade voyage, of the Motu people from the Central Province was repeated until the 1950s and today we commemorate it at Ela Beach on Papua New Guinea's Independence Day. It’s known as the Hiri Moale Festival.