Mother’s Umbilicus and Father’s Spirit

September 26, 2008

By Mimica, Jadran

ABSTRACT This is an ethnographic exploration of a Yagwoia transgendered person and his-her life-situation within the specificities of libidinal dynamics and economy of intersubjective relationships that constitute Yagwoia matrix of kinship and affinal relatedness. Developed within a framework of psychoanalysis and existential phenomenology, and forged through a long-term field research, this study offers an in-depth perspective on concrete realities of gender experience and social existence in an Angan life- world of east Papua New Guinea.

Key words: gender, identity, kinship, psychoanalysis, Papua New Guinea.


The Yagwoia-Angan people inhabit a rugged mountain region straddling the borderlands of the Eastern Highlands, Morobe, and the Gulf Provinces. Although my focus in this study is on the life- trajectory of a single transgendered Yagwoia, its background is the totality of their life-world which, through his^her predicament, is rendered into a unique configuration and an acute expression of their fundamental values. There is a vital dynamics of every Yagwoia life trajectory, regardless of one’s own sexed embodiment, that has to be briefly explicated from the outset since it is present as an unthematised dimension of this person’s situation. This is the dynamics of the paternal bone-power and its internalisation, a subject of a long study from which the present paper is an extract. The Yagwoia notion of the paternal bone and its power pertains to the relationship between the father and his children, specifically his sons (see Mimica 2007a: 5-6, 2007b:77-105). ‘Bone’ condenses the paternal phallic – i.e., semenal-spiritual – power contained, not just in the father’s genitals, but in the entire skeleton which in the Yagwoia understanding of the bodily edifice is an arboreal structure and as such, a phallic-ouroboric totality that generates its own animation. Reciprocally, this bodily microcosmos is animated by the macrocosmic metabolism generated by the movements, light and differential temperature of the sun and moon. This means that, like any tree, the bone (metonymically meaning the entire body as a phallic gestalt) is a generative organism whose trunk is rooted in the earth while the branches and leaves extend skyward. In the most expanded terms, the bone, then, is the human embodiment as the microcosmic equivalent of the macrocosmic edifice of the world delimited by the sky and earth (Mimica 2006:33). In terms of this global image (body=tree) the notion of the ‘father’s bone’ means that he is primarily a bigger branch (arm) closer to the trunk (spine = central axis of the body), while his sons at first are the smaller branches (hand-fingers) issuing from it. Later, when they replace him, they – in Yagwoia understanding – extract his bone and, in turn, the sons themselves become incorporated into the branch closer to the trunk from which, qua themselves, issue their own branches (children).

Daughters too are the branch-issues, but their destiny is to be like the leaves (fingernails) that detach from the trunk because they marry outside of their own paternal ‘trunk’ (latice group) and enable other trunks and their branches to internally reproduce themselves, i.e., that the fathers become replaced by their progeny of which the sons continue the process of (endo-) generation of the trunk via the incorporation into its branches which in turn are being incorporated into the trunk. The process is one of self- reciprocal incorporation, i.e., ouroboric (Mimica 1991, 2006). Moreover, every part of this self-totalising totality is identical to the whole (i.e., is hologramic) concretely imagined as a tree closed in on itself, i.e., its branches and roots intertwining. This is the archetypal, cosmic tree of life whose structural determination is ouroboric because, like the serpent that eats its own tail, this tree grows in-through-and-out-of-itself, ad infinitum. Thus, the trunk = branches = leaves = whole tree = trunk = roots = branches =and-so-on. Apart from their cosmology and its diverse forms of actualisation, this scheme is fully objectified in the Yagwoia naming system (Mimica 1988, 1991).

Finally, the reality of the soul and spirit that this notion encapsulates is best conveyed through a notion of generative energy whose macrocosmic source are the sun and moon replicated in the human body by the differential flow and interchange of blood and semenal (bone-marrow) flow in the blood-ropes (veins, arteries) and skeletal passages which in Yagwoia understanding comprise a system of intra-bodily channels. Accordingly, the notion of the ‘extraction- incorporation of the father’s bone’ entails also the incorporation of the paternal spirit-power (energy).2 Now, Ulaqayi, as I will call the protagonist of this ethnography, exemplifies a person who, overtly at least, from his birth onward has never desired to seize the phallic bone-power from his father, let alone to wrench it out of him as Yagwoia boys, in the course of their young life, are expected to accomplish in experientially diverse ways. Needless to say, he wasn’t nose-pierced either.


Ulaqayi was born with the male body but in his self-identity and every mode of countenance he is a woman. Thus he is a kwol-aapale (man-woman), the only one of his kind in the living memory of the Yagwoia.3 I knew nothing specifically about him before I first saw him (in December 1995) with a group of women squatted at my hut- door. His age would have been 18-23. I noticed an incongruity. His countenance was feminine in every detail but his face was discernibly male, full of thin hair that seemed to have never been shaved. His voice was male and his speech mannerism was without any noticeably accentuated feminine modulation. Nevertheless, he reverberated with feminine luminance. Then a week or so later a pell- mell fight broke out among a group of boys and young men during a card-game which created a huge racket and enticed the people to run down from all sides to see what was happening. Again, there he was standing among women and watching the melee from some distance. I had already learned that he was a boy who knew no other behaviour (hyiuwye)5 but that of woman. People from all sides of the Yagwoia lands (territorial groups) know of this boy who became aapalo- qwapa6 (like-a-woman), behaves like one, and does everything and exclusively what only women do. This is exactly how he was described to me time and again: that everything about his behaviour and activity is what women – not men – do. The emphasis is on the characteristic female behavioural repertoire (hyiuwye), which has impressed upon his kune umpne (thought-soul component) from the earliest childhood and that is the reason why he became (imanatenye) and does everything like a woman. In Yagwoia understanding, his womanliness is due to the semblance of the generic woman which encapsulates the characteristic behavioural concentrate (hyiuwye) and that is what Ulaqayi’s soul took into his self. In that determination he is as his soul makes him to be. It is precisely because the soul develops through differentiation and develops its characteristics and powers by being imprinted by semblances (often in visionary experiences) that this hyiuwye complex is often rendered into Tok Pisin as sain (shine), sta (star), piksa (picture) all of which emphasise that the quality of the critical experience is light and luminosity. By the same token, it points to the ideal nature of such semblances (see Mimica 2003a, 2006). Thus, Ulaqayi’s soul took into him the ‘shine’ of all women (their generic characteristics).

He not only refuses to but cannot do men’s activities, including the most basic ones such as climbing up a tree. He also doesn’t associate with men as a man, no matter how much they have coaxed, begged and pressured him to do that. But as a man-woman he engages within a rather narrower range of interaction than ordinary women precisely because no man would want to take him as his woman (i.e. wife) for the simple reason that he cannot bear a child. As one younger man said, no matter how good he is in doing hard work, and Ulaqayi excels in this domain better than any regular woman, in so far as you would want him as your woman (i.e. wife) you would lose money. Why? He has no place for making a baby. When I asked some men and a young woman about what Ulaqayi’s future prospects as a woman were, they agreed that with him there is no itaale (replacement, i.e. child). This was his fundamental deficiency. From 1995 until 2000, when his still lingering adolescent youthfulness was transforming into a full bodily maturity, I got to know and watch Ulaqayi reaching the limits of his viability as a man-woman in a life-world like the Yagwoia.8


His father (Lamwa) had two wives: the first bore him four sons and three daughters, the second two sons and four daughters. Ulaqayi was the second wife’s penultimate child and her second son. All four sisters eventually got married but their bride-price was ‘eaten’ by the elder brother, the alimentary fact that, as we shall see, eventually brought their younger man-woman brother into a pitiful quandary. According to his mother’s account, at the time of delivery he ‘came with a tail’ (hyeuwye-pupu nimotaqali), that is, he had a penis. The reduplicated female gender marker (-pupu)9 generates an intricate metaphorical tension. In her phrasing the penis is imaged as a tail while the female gender-suffix – qua femaleness – indicates its smallness and simultaneously both feminises and projects it as umbilicus, to which she refers in the next statement solely as ‘his little (ff)-one’ (kiGa /t/nye pupu). This particular underspecification is motivated by the fact that she was talking in the presence of two men about child-birth which invokes birth blood. By omitting peyule (umbilical cord) she minimised the explicitness of the thematic context. If it wasn’t for Qang who immediately asked her if she meant the umbilicus I would have assumed that she was referring to the ‘tail’. She said that having cut it she put it away with the intention of depositing it in the forest, i.e. in a tree or inside a water-fall. But when she wanted to do so the cut-off umbilicus cord had vanished. She stated that although he was born with the ‘tail’ (= penis), the disappearance of his umbilicus translated into the boy becoming woman-like (aapala-qwapapu). Although in her account this was stated as a causal relationship, one should rather understand that the events concerning the umbilicus at birth became intelligible when the boy grew up and it transpired that he was like-a-woman.

Although there was no explication, the detail of the missing umbilicus has in the Yagwoia understanding a sense of a foreboding whose evident actualisation is Ulaqayi’s womanliness. From the different but complementary vantage point, of the intelligence of his mother’s un/conscious,10 the source of her remarkable construction, I must refer to the genuine ambiguity of the Yagwoia archetypal imago of the phallo-umbilicus11 which in this particular instance is rendered through the pregnant condensation of tail=umbilicus. It both displaces and retains the reference to the external penis, Ulaqayi’s manifest genital maleness. In the event of his birth, however, the severance of the umbilicus went somewhat awry; his mother cut it and displaced it, as it were, since this pre- natal connection between this boy and his mother disappeared along with his maleness. To put it slightly differently: the umbilicus had gone but the maternal connection reappeared incarnated in full guise as her son’s exclusive female self-identity. Thus, although the penis lost its significance in Ulaqayi’s psycho-sexual development from its inception, the (maternal) phallus12 took possession of her son’s soul in toto. Indeed, it can be said that for the rest of his life, Ulaqayi’s masculinity qua the penis remained exactly as his mother named and displaced it, just a ‘little-tail-she’. I will take up further issues of this phallic dialectics of castration in Ulaqayi’s sexual identity at a later stage.


In his own self-account Ulaqayi gave a most definitive formulation as to how and when he realised that he was a woman rather than a man. In his wording, the period in which his critical experience unfolded follows immediately after he ‘came from his mother’s net bag’ (womb) which is to be understood as demarcating the early years of childhood. During that period, as it is the case with Yagwoia children of both sexes, he was primarily in the orbit of his mother’s bodily presence and care. He was thus participating in the milieu of women’s daily domestic chores and work around the house, in the garden, and in the pandanus groves distributed throughout the fringe-forest zone. This is a rhythmic flow of diverse activities involving intense engagement with earthly, vegetal, and animal substances all of which transmute into edible foodstuff and, most significantly through pigs, into wealth. The pigs copulate, multiply, and translate into shells and money, and furthermore, enable for humans to obtain more wealth and all sorts of goods, and through brideprice they become conjoined in sex, make babies, and every so often they tear each other apart on the account of all these things – principally wealth and sex. Here, in the facticity of demanding work one experiences oneself as a potent source of and the conduit for the generativity of the world substance and its diverse life-forms. Many of these literally feed back into the human bodily self. The maternal sphere of daily domestic work, then, is driven by and intensely infused with the fundamental libidinal-appetitive desires and demands. Here, the desire and appetitive cravings of adults converge with the desires and demands of babies and children, which, however, are more narrowly and directly focussed on the maternal bodily provisioning.

This realm centred upon and vitally sustained by women’s work generates and sustains their self-valuation and self-esteem. It is primarily in the activity of food preparation, planting, digging, peeling of tubers, cooking in earth ovens and/or open fire, pig growing, firewood fetching, cleaning, and so on, that Yagwoia children come to experience and appreciate the way their mothers, as valuing and judgmental adults, apprise each other, their husbands, and most fundamentally, sustain and articulate their self-esteem and narcissistic selfmodulation. Here the child comes to sense that his/ her mother is valued, judged, and praised by others (eg. co-wives or more distant people) as desirable, good, hard-working, or lazy, bad, good-for-nothing, etc. She lives herself within an intersubjective field of affectivity and evaluations in which she just as much gauges, endears, praises, and disparages others as they do it to her. By the same token, she continuously upholds the value of herself, her children, and her own kin. This, then, is the interhuman field of the primary matrix of incorporative- identificatory dynamics through which the egoic self of infancy experiences and shapes his/her self mediated by the working and feeding adult women: the mothers, father’s sisters, grandmothers, sisters. And amidst these, there are brothers, fathers, grandfathers, maternal uncles and every other kind of men.

Such is the Yagwoia domestic milieu within which humanness is articulated through the interaction with the worked-upon earth substance and life-forms. Pigs, dogs, and game are of particular importance and in that order. Dogs intrinsically relate to hunting and game. In this regard, long before a child, especially male, will be able to effectively relate to a dog as a fellow hunter, notwithstanding such childhood practices as lizard and rat catching, taking part in pig raising is an activity in which every child can participate more akin to an adult. And precisely as such s/he can experience the power of their own bodily work and indeed – generativity, more so than in the case of such activity as helping the mother to plant new tubers or digging them out for daily feed. This is the critical context in which Ulaqayi’s self-recognition had emerged and crystallised.

Thus, in his self-account he said that while still a young child (probably 5-8 years old) he was given two piglets to raise. I am choosing this verbal phrasing because it most acutely expresses the character of involvement with pigs. One feeds them in order to grow them, and when they have become big s/he can delight not just in their size but also, when the sows have a litter, in the multiplicity of the squealing and suckling piglets. They are the concrete produce of pig owner’s generative activity. The two piglets that Ulaqayi grew became big and produced piglets. Eventually his two sows ended up being killed and eaten which is the proper destiny of all pigs. By being eaten they would have also been transmuted into shells. But what impressed the child Ulaqayi so profoundly was exactly this fact that his two piglets grew up through his endeavour and gave birth to baby piglets. With this a dim realisation began to insinuate itself namely that he had effectively accomplished the same feat as adult women. This porcine plenitude came into being, as he put it, ‘through my hand right-here’ (ngalye hwolye qapatepa namalda), yet he was only a little child.

Then the experience was repeated. He got another piglet which he eagerly took into his care and before long it also grew up, had a litter, and finally was killed. Feeding, growing, pregnancy, squealing plenitude of piglets, and death caused by insatiable human appetite the porcine existential cycle is short and definite. It would also enable for a child to feel a tacit sense of omnipotent mastery of life-and-death of the creatures grown in entirety by and, as it were, out of his hand. Ulaqayi used the same image with regard to his other generative activity – garden work, fire-wood fetching, and just about every other female work that he devoted himself to. He surmised that having accomplished all this work a thought came to him that he was not a boy but a girl.13 Here it should be emphasised that for the Yagwoia, thinking is the activity of one’s thought- soul. It acts upon oneself rather than the ego being the agency that directly does the thinking. What is implicit here is that Ulaqayi’s soul was affected by the woman’s characteristic hyiuwye which now dawns14 upon him in an act of self-revelation. He reiterated it by saying that he thereby realised that he was not a man but a woman.15 The indubitable grounds of his self-recognition were the pigs that he grew and which, reciprocally, actualised and affirmed his female generativity, which is the motive force of his self-identification and self-certitude. In another account of the same experience he said that he himself grew up with the pigs he grew.

This is the centrepiece of Ulaqayi’s self-account from which he didn’t deviate. When I asked him again some four years after the first account how he realised that he was a woman, he referred to the previous recording reiterating in the process the experience of pig-raising. Several comments are in order. Overtly the maternal presence in this self-elaboration is not mentioned, apart from the reference to his origination from ‘my mother’s net-bag’ which posits his-becoming-woman in the period of early childhood. Furthermore, there is no overt indication of who gave him the piglets or whether his mother or other people praised him in his early efforts at pig raising and his prolific success. The stress is on all-by-himself and his handiwork. This singular Yagwoia image of the procreative hand confers upon his self-centeredness a phallic determination that characterises the generative intrabodily powers of adults (male and female). This self-picturing just as much appositely conveys the narcissistic strength of his adult egoity as it echoes the kind of intense libidinal projection that must have enveloped him when he, as a little boy, in the wake of his pigs’ first litter, became smitten by the power of his procreativity.

Although not overtly verbalised, his own choice of this experience as the reason for becoming a woman indicates quite clearly that the sows, which he grew, and their babies had the significance of being his progeny, and reciprocally, that he grew up through them. To be sure, this is nothing more but an intensification of the actual fact that the owners, especially when they themselves grow their pigs, are their parents. Furthermore, pigs (and dogs) bear the patri-names17 of their owners signifying that they as such are of the same bone-identity as their owners. In this regard, Ulaqayi’s self-experience actualises the common reality of intense empathy and identifications that exist between humans and their pigs in the Yagwoia life-world (and elsewhere in New Guinea). Also evident here is that common desire in children (of both sexes) to produce babies. But in Ulaqayi’s case his earliest feminine self- insinuations blossomed uninhibited if for no other reason but for the fact that he pursued female work on a par to other women within his domestic milieu. And the principal among them was his mother. In this regard, to the extent that she doesn’t figure explicitly in his self-account, this can be taken as a good index of her omnipresence, or better, omni-intra-presence in his soul which, as the Yagwoia see it, took no other ‘shine’ but that of the woman.

The whole tenor of his self-account makes clear that in his adhesion to his mother and, thus, in the pursuit of woman’s generativity, he at the same time vied to excel her, although not overtly but in the guise of women-in-general. Here is the core- determination of his omni/m/potence which, to the extent that he could sustain it throughout his young life in the omni-potent mode, this eventually, as we shall see, began to transfigure into an escalating experience of his impotence in the face of the limits of his project as a man-woman. To the extent that his power and narcissistic self-equilibrium are entirely rooted in his maternal femaleness, actualised in only one register available to him, namely as his superior excellence in the sphere of women’s work, including his ability to look after babies as good as any woman (minus breast feeding), his phallic self-circuity is entirely determined in relation to and by his mother. As we shall see, her own expression of that position became clearly stated following her husband’s (i.e. Ulaqayi’s father’s) death.


As he was growing up, his accomplishments as a man-woman had brought him unreserved acknowledgement of his splendid handiwork, but, at the same time, disapproval of his unwavering self-pursuit. I must emphasise that this never took the form of some cruel denunciation or ridicule, let alone that his fellow villagers would have judged and castigated him as an aberration or a freak. On the contrary, they always saw him as a man-woman and precisely as such they would tell him to give up on behaving as a woman and start behaving as a man. For instance, some men would tell him to take an axe and start cutting trees and make fence-posts, or to carry firewood as men do, upright and on his shoulder rather than doing the woman’s work in the garden, making net-bags, or carrying food and firewood suspended from his forehead and on the back, as women do. The young man (mentioned earlier) who said that a man would lose money on Ulaqayi if taken for a wife, told me how he once trusted a bow and arrows into the latter’s hands and begged him in frustration – “Take! Take this, leave the digging spade, leave the skirt!” Still more, every so often he would be chided for being always with women and never with men as one of them. Then again, when he started buying European clothes, men would tell him to buy trousers rather than a skirt. The best way to describe these men’s attitude is that they were frustrated and affronted by his total rejection of the man’s hyiuwye. Many women, too, told him to give up on their ways and be with men. But it is also the case that some women appreciated him as their hard-working companion. What is more, they said that he is a complete woman and therefore can be with them all the time. Whatever this range of attitudes, his incorporation into the female group-body and social habitus was total on a par to his equally total incorporation of woman’s hyiuwye.

For his part, Ulaqayi was unyielding. Always ready to counter any reproaches concerning his woman’s way, he would retort that he had always followed the woman’s hyiuwye, and that he cannot undo it and change. What do they want him to do?! – to start wearing trousers, climbing up the pandanus palms, and such?! He can only do what women do and he’ll carry on in that fashion. In all respects he sustained his position with admirable stalwartness. When I asked him about the attitudes of his mother and father, he said that they also tell him to give up on his woman’s hyiuwye, but his argument to them was the same: ‘how can I give it up when I followed it from the time I was little and took this strength. I am not able to give it up’. Indeed, his womanhood was the core of his self and as such his yeki’/t/nye (strength).

However, just as in the wider field of sociality so also within his family orbit, it seems quite certain that he didn’t face any radical opposition, either from his mother, the father, or his siblings. The father didn’t reject him; he appreciated his son as everyone else did, namely that he was a man-woman. But at the same time both parents held a view, regardless of their son’s self- certitude to the contrary, that he might be compelled to change as he got older. It was at the point that he got old enough to be given a woman that his father’s and mother’s demands that he should give up his womanliness gained a hitherto unsuspected existential weight. This reached a critical momentum in a period of some twenty months between late 1998 and 2000. I will deal with the intricacies of this situation below; presently I will further detail Ulaqayi’s self- consolidation in his womanhood before that crisis, precipitated by his father’s death in mid 1998.


The dominant self-image of his womanhood, which he lived with peremptory commitment, is that of a hard working woman. Undoubtedly, no actual woman could or would really want to measure up to this ideal that he tirelessly actualised in his daily comportment. In one of his self-accounts he described how he does everything necessary for cooking in the stone-oven. So when the food is ready to be uncovered, he will be the first to start doing it and call upon the rest of women to join him and do their work. And if he sees that afterwards there is some rubbish left lying around – sweet potato peel or other rubbish which other women hadn’t bothered to clean up, well he will do it after them. And to top it up, he always cares about the boys from his homestead, who go in pursuit of their pleasures and interests, gambling and such. Accordingly he puts aside the food for them, which they can enjoy when they return hungry. A good woman, be she a sister, mother, or paternal aunt (kalyi) will make sure that her children don’t stay hungry. My co- worker Qang unreservedly praised Ulaqayi’s hyiuwye in this respect: ‘He looks after all his brothers’ children same as a mother or father’s sister. And when he transports a baby it is exactly like a woman: he’ll first mount a net-bag loaded with tubers, then comes a load of fire-wood, and last the baby on the top of the head’. I too was impressed by the completeness of Ulaqayi’s distinctively female Yagwoian habitus of baby-care, a flow of movements, gestures and comportments, ranging from swift pick-ups and holding caress to playful face mouthing and sweet-nothing verbalisations.18

There is an aura of indefatigable dutifulness about his womanly comportment, always amplified by the point that on no account would his thought-soul compel him to desire doing all those things boys and men ordinarily desire and do. No! His thought-soul is fixated on women’s work and nothing else. Much as he lives himself as this ideality, it is equally a self-actualisation aimed at and for others. In his self-descriptions he reiterates that others, men and women, comment on his accomplishments as a woman that outdoes all other women. This self-projection into an idealising, exterior vantage point from which he sees himself being seen by others as a woman, is an intrinsic dimension of his ceaseless work of self- actualisation. When I told him that I had heard how some men from other territorial groups wanted to pay bride-price for him because they took him for a real and astonishingly hard-working woman, he confirmed that this was indeed the case. His reply to them was that though they think he is a woman they’ll be shaken by surprise to learn that he is a man. At one level he is more than pleased with this kind of recognition for that is the triumph of his womanliness. But at the same time he said that he wasn’t pleased with these approaches, insisting that what they see is the hyiuwye his soul holds and this is the only thing he knows and does. The implication is that his womanliness, as it were, does not go beyond the domain of work. As for marrying a woman he said without hesitation that he himself has already become a woman and therefore he doesn’t think about it. Similarly so in respect of getting a man which, most importantly, is unacceptable among the Yagwoia. As for the prospect of getting old and dying as an old woman he was just as definite. Yes, his thoughtsoul is firm on this; he will remain a woman until he gets old and dies. I began to realise that he felt the possibilities of coupling as a threat to his female self-identity. From the time of our first conversation (February 1995), this had a definite quality of his self-sufficiency. He rejects taking either a woman or a man and responds to suggestions that he give up this womanly work: ‘I became woman-like and who will give me food. I am not a man so they’ll give me food. My thought is – I myself must work in the garden and provide food. There is no man or woman who will provide me with food’. It should be observed that he cast the regular man’s position as the one who is fed by his woman while the regular woman is the one who feeds him. But in his case, being the kind of woman that he is, he cannot expect either a man or a woman to feed him. Ergo, he has to do it for and by himself. It seemed that the only thing that mattered to him is the preservation of his womanliness, which both versions of conjugal coupling would compromise. To be with another woman he would have to give up his womanhood. To be with a man was also unacceptable, principally to others. But it was his own genuine perspective that the coupling with a man would compromise his self-sufficiency, regardless of his sexual desire. For his womanliness subsists upon his omni/m/ potent19 core in which his femininity is primarily his ideal of and for himself but qua the radical symbiosis with his mother. And the only masculine self-presence that he is truly coupled with, or better, infused with, is his mother’s – her phallus – over which he has total possession. But for the same reason, it also possesses him in toto. This is the truth of his omni/m/potence that defines his self-sufficiency. However, precisely because he is an actualisation of the Yagwoia womanhood configured in its nearcrystalline essence (but for menstruation and child-bearing), his self-sufficiency as a woman who cannot possibly depend on others to feed her, is constituted within a framework of profound dependencies on men and their work.

This became only too clear in the same conversation. Thus, he duly said that he, like all women, doesn’t really know and cannot make a house for himself. If he tried, then at best it would be a shack. In fact at the time he was sleeping at his mother’s house that his father built for her, as every man should properly do for his woman. Furthermore, Ulaqayi explained that he never sleeps in the man’s section of any house but always in the woman’s.20 As for making a garden, i.e. creating a tillable plot by fencing it off with numerous posts, Ulaqayi candidly said that his thought-soul never thinks about that. That is what men do and ‘we (i.e. women) go and stay inside and work’. He said that he only helps as the women do it, by carrying posts lengthwise across his back and on his head, bending forward as he goes, but not on the shoulder. As for driving them into the ground, that would truly be too hard for him. He mainly works in the gardens of his older brother and his patrilateral half-brothers (by his father’s first wife). Whoever in his sphere of relatedness needs an extra woman to work inside the garden, he goes in. Here, in a nut-shell, Ulaqayi made clear the real foundation of his self-sufficiency rooted, as it is, in the soil of deep dependency upon his closest male kin. And this dependency was the determining condition of his life, which as yet had to show in full its true devouring nature.


It seems that his aging mother and father had a more cogent perspective on their son’s future life, dependant upon his married brothers. Thus, the parents, principally the father in fact, would declare time and again that when they die, should they (as spirits of the dead) see that the other brothers abuse and disregard Ulaqayi, they (the parental spirits) will be so sorry for and concerned with him that they will kill and take him with them. No Yagwoia would take lightly this sort of menacing warning and, indeed, Ulaqayi’s brothers were at first quite anxious. They responded by asking their parents why would they want to kill him for they (brothers) had no intention of harming him. Rather, Ulaqayi was their strength and the parents must not think of undercutting them by taking him away. They (brothers) will look after him so that he can work inside their garden and look after their pigs. He had become entirely like a woman and, at the same time remained a strong man; they wouldn’t want to think or do anything bad to him, the brothers said.

It should be observed that the parental threat to Ulaqayi’s brothers pledged the destruction not of their lives but his. What is more, the emotional equation relates the brothers’ possible neglect and abuse of the younger brother to the parents’ sorrowful concern for his misery which as such would have to be terminated by them killing him off. This scheme is intended to induce guilt in the brothers, but at the same time it feeds into the victim’s narcissistic self-circuity effectively fuelling his passively omni/ m/potent self-regard whose focus is on others. Its dominant effect is melancholic self-righteous rage, indicative of the symbiotic deadlock in the maternal self-object;22 and the terminal self- fulfilment of this dependency would be suicide. As we shall see, this register of sorrowful self-concern and, by the same token, of impotence eventually became one of Ulaqayi’s modes of manipulation of his brothers. But in 1995, while both parents were still alive he still had not attended to the web of exploitation and powerlessness that his all-female dependency on his brothers was spinning around him. He felt that the parental protection, staked on his death, was as such a warranty for his good life. Alas, this intra-familial self- circuity only consolidates the symbiotic fusion with the parental self-objects who in turn reinforce their grip over ego’s own life- and-death. This in effect specifies the masochistic railing of Ulaqayi’s self-circuity.

The calculus of omni/m/potence underlying Ulaqayi’s parental protection can be given the following explicit formulation: if you (brothers) don’t cater for my desires and demands my parents will kill me for your failure to satisfy me. At this stage, his desire and demands pivoted on his remaining consolidated in his womanly mode of being and doing. Nothing else seemed to matter. As for the brothers’ placement in his egoic self-circuity, they were readily fitted in but, clearly enough, in terms of their own self-circuity. They declared him to be their strength, doing, as he did, his excellent and productive work. Therefore, why would they want to deprive themselves of such a source of work and wealth. At that stage this fact hadn’t acquired sufficient gravity for Ulaqayi who was still blinded by the pursuit of his own womanliness, self- fulfilled so long as its actualisation is ratified and admired by others. And the fact that his brothers eagerly availed themselves of his fecundity confirmed him in his womanhood.23 His future life is secured; he will indeed be a woman until her death, making herself actualised in and through his mother and brothers, fully implanted inside their garden-fence. The parental mortal pronouncements tied the nuptial knot on the snare of his symbiotic passivity and womanhood with, as it were, the bride-price that beats all bride- prices – his own life. And, to be sure, the executive grip on the masochistic thread weaved in this ensnaring self-circuity was overtly exercised by the hands of his parents. For it was they who professed to take it upon themselves to be his executioners in the case his fraternal domestic container would reduce him to a sorrowful self-depravity. Such were Ulaqayi’s prospects in the mid- nineties when it looked that he would remain entirely rooted inside the garden-fence and house made by his father and brothers rather than by himself. He was adamant about staying the way he was – the dutiful woman made so in the image and by the desire of his soul which in turn got seduced by the ‘shine’ of his mother the moment she displaced his ‘little umbilicus’, and by the fecundity of his faithful porcine babies. He was to be his brothers’ woman willing to grow old and die as such, a kalyi (father’s sister) to their children.


Before I examine the development of his situation in the wake of his father’s death I will outline Ulaqayi’s sexual desire and concerns. At the time I first talked to him he had already had a tumultuous sexual experience which had made it clear enough that his future self-actualisation as a woman was severely limited.

In the early nineties Ulaqayi was camping in a remote forest- garden area with two sisters and his sister’s husband24 (ZH, kamba) whom I shall call PH. If for nothing else, he is well known as a man of self-assertive disposition and rapacious sexual appetite with a considerable number of extra-marital affairs, including one with his younger brother’s wife.25 One night at the forest-garden hut he and his wife were sleeping with Ulaqayi in the middle. According to the latter,26 PH first had sex with his wife (Ulaqayi’s Z) and then he turned to Ulaqayi (PH’s WB) who fellated him. Although Ulaqayi professed that it was his ZH who forced him into this, the reports from the village court that I heard give a more ambiguous picture. According to Ulaqayi, to the extent that his kamba imposed himself on him, this didn’t seem to have been a physically forceful move. But whichever way it came about, Ulaqayi did fellate his ZH and then, he said, he moved away to the side where his two sisters were asleep. Reportedly, he told them what happened but they didn’t react in the way that he expected, namely to scold PH. They just stood there silent, and probably stunned. But back in the village the affair was quickly brought to the attention of the komiti, the local government officials, and this immediately became a public issue which generated an equal measure of amusement and dismay. More than just being outrageous, PH’s action created a mood of simultaneous disapproval and uneasy admiration. The dominant colouring of the way the villagers mused over his exploit was firstly that it was an exploit. They perceived in it a sort of ingenuity that virtually justified the act itself. The ingenuity was exactly in that PH first had sex with his wife sleeping next to him and then he moved on to, not just to any man, but to his WB (kamba). The point here is that in the Yagwoia affinal field this relationship is tacitly seen as a mediated sexual conjunction between two men. They are conjoined through the woman who is on the one hand the sister to one of them and the proper sexual partner to another. And accordingly, together they are making their (mutual) children.

The sexual-procreative underpinning of this relationship between the two men is marked by the avoidance of the kin term for this relationship in direct address. Although self-reciprocal, it is markedly asymmetrical. As the wife-receiver, a ZH is indebted to his WB. Accordingly it is the latter who is expected to avoid addressing his ZH as mbeloqwa (1S my-affine) on the grounds that it makes him feel unduly ashamed. Indeed, the moment one is addressed as such by a WB (real or classificatory) one immediately feels that one has to give in to whatever demands the WB may hurl upon one. But the case of PH and Ulaqayi amplified the sense of identity and transitivity between a man and his sister. Therefore, the fact that PH moved on from his wife to her brother, who in addition was a shiny woman, didn’t strike a dissonant chord but, I can say, gave the fullest expression to its inner and suppressed pitch. It was this aspect that conferred upon PH a veneer of smug cleverness which simultaneously amused and dismayed the villagers. One could almost say that there was a tacit and unsettling feeling running through the group whose meaning was – how come that, as it were, nobody thought of that before.27

Ulaqayi’s position in this situation has brought into a sharpest relief the kind of quandaries that his determination to be a woman would get him into. At the village court the komiti men came down on him with the full entailments of his self-pursuit of the woman’s hyiuwye. They told him – “You see now what happens when you want to be a woman?!!” – thinking that they had really cornered him now. For the answer was immanent in the incident itself – what else but that one inevitably gets involved in sex. Realising that the integrity of his womanliness was at stake, Ulaqayi stood his grounds and replied that this was all right and that he liked it. Reportedly, this left the komitis momentarily gasping for words, but then they scolded him for speaking as he did, finally resigning themselves to the fact that this boy was so strong-willed about his female hyiuwye that nothing would make him give it up. But, all the same, they agreed that PH was culpable since his action was against all the customs of the place. This was fully ratified by the police court held in the village at the time they came to make their initial inquiry. He was told that his having sex with a boy (who at that time wasn’t a minor) was against the ‘strong law’ of Papua New Guinea and that therefore he had broken the law of the gavman (government). The police dealt with him accordingly by roughing him up with heightened brutality so much so that his own ZH felt compelled to offer a pig as compensation to the komiti and the police. This was characterised as the ‘washing off his shame’.28 PH spent a short time in prison at the Mw station. Having paid the fine he was released and returned home.

Despite his ingenious transgression there was no attempt to subject him to any kind of group opprobrium or exclusion; reciprocally, there was no indication in PH that he felt publicly humiliated or precarious about himself. However, for a while he harboured anger over the beatings he had received from the police. A few times he abused his wife on the pretext that she and her brother had testified against him in the court. Yet, as we shall see, PH exercised a protective attitude towards Ulaqayi. Indeed, he was clearly fond of his man-woman kamba (WB). The fact that PH engaged him sexually, despite all the ipseity of his desire, may well be seen as an idiosyncratic actualisation of the repressed truth of that relation. PH is a kind of self-possessed man who, in his self- cock-sureness, would feel fully gratified by the affirmation of his momentary wants and desire over and against all prohibitions. From the inner perspective of Yagwoia libidinal flow, his exploit seems to indicate the assumption that if one pays the bride-price to have sex with the woman in whose womb he implants himself, he may as well have it off with her brother for he is the one who eats the ungye (shells, money) and claims their children’s flesh and life as his inalienable self-substance. However, a clear enough factor in his move to have sex with his WB was the fact that the latter embodied the ‘shine’ of a woman. In fact, as I came to see it later, if there were a man who could have provided Ulaqayi with a genuine sexual affirmation of his womanliness, than it was this kamba (WB) of his.

Whatever Ulaqayi might have desired and phantasised in respect of sexual involvement with a man as the catalyst for his female self- completion, the foregoing experience would have greatly inhibited him from admitting and thematising it not just to other people, such as myself, but also to himself. There was a symptomatic dissonance between his attitude towards talking about his sexual desire on the one hand and about his female bodily habitus on the other. He was relatively at ease talking about the latter precisely because this showed that he was a woman, down to the last detail. He explained that when he has to urinate he squats like a woman. As for an erection, he said that he doesn’t experience it, not even when he is pressured to urinate. He also said that he did not have any dreams, and definitely not those in which he would have an ejaculation. So the image he conjured is the total absence, as it were, of male genital stimulation and titillation.29 This self-avowed absence of erotic self-experience is consonant with his self-idealisation as a dutiful and hard-working woman. Furthermore, to admit that he, qua his external penis, has erotic desire would make him akin to a man, which is what he ardently didn’t want to be. So, when Qang suggested to Ulaqayi, due to his knowledge of the Sambia tanim man, that at some stage he may lose his penis and develop a vagina instead, the latter said that he thought about this a lot and that he would like to have a vagina. He reaffirmed this when I asked whether he would like to become completely changed; he replied that he would be delighted if he could get a vagina.30

It was this rather unreserved response which indicated to me anew how profoundly obsessed Ulaqayi is with his feminine self-image. In a sense it was the maximal incarnation and actualisation of his own contrasexual self-image that seemed to be the all-consuming focus of his libidinal investment and desire. So if there was a primary erotic object that he desired most of all, it would have to be himself as a complete woman. The critical dreamvisions that he had following the death of his father gave me indirect evidence and guidance for this supposition, specifically that in the dynamic structuration and maintenance of his libidinal body-image, his genital excitement must be generated by his contra-sexual self- image.

As for his desire to have sex with another person, it became clear that he saw a man’s sexual advances to him in the same way as he appreciated bride-price offers: gratifying to the extent that this affirms him in his womanliness. Smirkingly, he said that he tells some men who make lurid remarks to him that they can get excited and erect their sticks on him! That is what men do. And they may want to do the same thing as PH. But himself (Ulaqayi) being a woman, that sort of thought (i.e., desire for sex) doesn’t come to him. His thought goes only to work. What he emphasises is his dutiful, asexual womanliness which he defends against copulative sexual desire. This he attributes to men more than to women although he knows that they are anything but void of the same desire. Accordingly, he places himself in the exclusively passive but narcissistically gratifying position; men may wield their sticks at him as it pleases them, but that is their desire not his. To the extent that he might have felt a sense of his superiority for being outside of it, by the same token it would seem that he didn’t sense that this was also undercutting his pursuit of incarnating womanliness in full.


In his libidinal-narcissistic economy, sexual intercourse would entail a radical rupture of his womanly self-semblance which resisted a freer and deeper articulation of sexual (erotic) object cathexes and concomitantly, of his own sexual development. If anything, the absolute cathexis of his female self-image was channelled and actualised in the sphere of work within which, to use Lacan’s notion, he generated his only kind of jouissance.31 Accordingly, despite his masterly incarnation of the woman’s hyiuwye, he didn’t develop a relation with the phallus that would make his soul equivalent to that of his fellow Yagwoia women. To put it differently, he could not desire and deal with men as Yagwoia women do. He was a woman well in excess of and below the desire of Yagwoia womankind. As I came to see it, for him the fundamental issue was whether to remain the kind of womanly self that he had known all his young life, rooted as it was in his archaic maternal- phallic matrix, or to give that self-image up and become a man. The latter meant literally to embrace the demands of principally his aging father and, qua him, the mother. Their formula for this transformation was: to make him a man meant in the first instance to get him a woman. This is what Ulaqayi, amidst all his anxiety, also thought to be the case, except that, in addition, he knew better than anybody else that it also entailed the loss – nay – the sacrifice of his most treasured selfhood. There was a serious leakage in this self-flow. It began to beset him ever more acutely, not because of the pressures exerted on him by his parents and others, but because he felt it through the dispossession of his very self-substance, the money that he generated through his work. As I emphasised above, Ulaqayi’s womanliness found its sole mode of expression in work. In respect of desiring and demanding a woman for himself, his self was very much in question as to whether or not he was enough of a man to satisfy the demands and desires of a potential woman (i.e. wife), but in respect of the fecundity of his work he was superior to all of his brothers as well as their wives. As such they were in his debt rather than the other way around. This became the focal aspect of the next phase in the dialectics of Ulaqayi’s attempt at self-repossession and masculinization, no matter how tentative it turned out to be. It unfolded along the following trajectory.


It will be recalled that Ulaqayi’s parents had pledged to exercise a deadly protection over him. Its principal executor was the old father who in particular was pressuring his four other sons to get a woman for Ulaqayi who might thereby be compelled to give up his female way. In doing this, the father was actually making them assume the paternal position vis-avis their other and younger siblings.32 By the mid-nineties these four were all married with children. Besides Ulaqayi the first wife’s fourth boy also had to be given a woman quite soon. His predicament was also a cul-de-sac although his first-born, eldest brother assumed the paternal responsibility for him.33 The old father’s worrisome concern was entirely channelled into Ulaqayi. Feeling that he hadn’t got much time left, the father used every opportunity to state his demands to his impassive sons. By now it was clear that Ulaqayi’s predicament as a hard-working women suited their desires the best. They continuously asked him for money, which he willy-nilly gave them, and in the process they procured for themselves pork and all sorts of other goods. Ulaqayi’s elder brother (first-born) had already eaten the bride-price for their three sisters, giving nothing to his younger brother, on the pretext that he was a woman. The father accordingly specifically told him that the brideprice for the fourth sister has to go to his younger brother and so for the purpose of getting him a woman. But the elder brother disregarded it.

The old father’s demand was comprised of the following pronouncements. He wanted his married sons to find a woman for Ulaqayi and see what kind of effect this would have on him. If it didn’t work then so be it; and if the chosen woman didn’t want to stay with him, that is her will, she can leave him, and so be it. But first of all they’ve got to provide him with a woman and then, the old man maintained, their little brother will cast off his female hyiuwye. They should do this while he was still alive whereas if he died beforehand, then afterwards he would not be pleased with them. That is, when he had become a spirit of the dead he would carry out his deadly pledge. He underscored that when he died, if he would see that they do not feel sorrowful concern for their brother’s predicament, and if he (as the spirit of the dead) sees that the latter is still the same, without a woman and himself living as one, he would kill him and take him away. Moreover, he especially stipulated to his wife (Ulaqayi’s mother) that she must not die quickly and follow him. She has to make sure that the other brothers first provide Ulaqayi with a ‘net-bag’ (womb = woman) and then she can die.34 With this he had literally made her equivalent to himself, which, as we shall see, she fully embraced.

The old father, however, didn’t fail to declare in his pre- mortem demands, which targeted Ulaqayi’s womanliness, that he also thought of his shiny son as being superior to his brothers. So, not only did he declare that Ulaqayi must continue to grow pigs, because this strength of his would not fail him; the father imparted to him the most precious knowledge, the spells (ququne yaqale) for raising pigs. One can only marvel at the wisdom of his gesture for there was no better way to at once affirm his son’s fecund womanliness and, at the same time, to insist that he should forego its literal incarnation. What is more, the old father specifically stipulated that the brothers must not find a lazy woman for this could affect Ulaqayi’s soul (umpne) and in turn make him lazy. No, they’ve got to find a woman who is as hard-working as him. This echoed a view that the brothers’ wives weren’t good and that they all were living off Ulaqayi’s hard work. The latter’s MB (who died in 1995; see Mimica 2003a) used to chide his sister’s first-born son (i.e. Ulaqayi’s elder brother) for getting himself a lazy woman. As for his younger brother he must get a woman that will properly match him.

The old man kept on talking and relentlessly admonishing his sons in this vein until he finally died in August 1998, following an epidemic which swept the area after an El Ninorelated drought that lasted almost a year (1996-7). The sons didn’t heed their father one bit and, even if he didn’t fully take into himself his father’s desire, Ulaqayi began to feel ever more acutely the incremental price of his position of being a shiny sister of his brothers who preferred him to remain as he was, without a real net-bag (womb = woman) and replacement (child) inside it. In January 1999 he estimated that his brothers extracted from him some 620 Kina which, by Yagwoia standards, was a lot of money considering that at that time a bride-price could be anything from 700 to 1,400 Kina. In addition to his brothers, Ulaqayi’s MZSS (i.e. his classificatory matrilateral brother’s son, hence a son) also drew on his fecundity, 50 Kina at that stage. Ulaqayi came to stay at this matrilateral brother’s place in order to lessen his patrilateral brothers’ grip over him. But being single as he was, and without his own replacement, meant that there will always be some other siblings and their replacements to ask for financial assistance. In effect, Ulaqayi managed to retain next to nothing of his hard-work fecundity. His jouissance was now turning into a self-deprivation and depression. The only support he had was his father’s pre-mortem talk and pledge, and his mother, who now became the chief promulgator of her dead kwolyana’s (old man’s = husband’s) authority and unheeded demands.


The critical experience in which Ulaqayi himself began to respond to the dead father’s desire and the demand to give up his woman’s hyiuwye took place some four months after his death. Burdened by his situation of self-loss he went one day to bemoan his predicament at his father’s grave. He wept there and spoke to the father’s invisible presence to the effect that his old mother was now making the same talk (i.e. demands) as he used to do, that she too will die, and that the brothers would not yield to his stipulations. It will be noted here that Ulaqayi remains self-posited in the passive- narcissistic position of his original omni/m/potence now escalating into the impotent modality. For he wants the brothers to enact the father’s wish and bring Ulaqayi’s fulfilment by finding a woman for him and therefore giving back that which they extracted from him with his willing consent, his money. Their demands on his work=money was in fact nothing else but their continuous recognition and acknowledgement of his foremost desire – to be fully affirmed and thus actualised as a woman. But presently Ulaqayi was no longer content with that circuit of self-satisfaction. Yet he had under no circumstances reached the point whereby he could forfeit his only self-identity – of being a woman – and embark on becoming a man.

Having offloaded some of his sorrow to the invisible dead father, he returned home where he fell asleep and had the following dream- vision:

I saw the face of a man and I kept on looking at him thus; no! it is me, me now – my face I am looking at. It is me now, and I am a man – no! I became a woman, I was looking thus now and I thought thus – “Aiy! The father died, and before he died he told Ulqwa (Ulaqayi’s elder brother) thus: “You find a woman for your little one (second-born younger brother)!” He told him thus but Ulqwa didn’t hear his talk.

Ulaqayi understood this dream-vision as a showing made by his father’s ilymane (spirit of the dead). He reiterated his father’s talk35 adding that he thinks that his father is angry with him because his brothers didn’t heed his admonitions, didn’t get a woman, and therefore he showed him this kind of dream vision. What is important to observe about this oneiric showing is in the first instance the crystal-clear auto-scopic articulation of Ulaqayi’s selfimage. He first sees the face of a man whom he soon recognises as himself being a man. Than his male self-identification flickers and he next sees himself as he always did, a woman. It is significant that the vision is focussed on the face which undergoes male>female transformation but in both he recognises himself as himself. His egoic selfidentity remains constant under the flickering transformation. To the extent that the dreamvision articulates a destabilisation and, indeed, a splitting of his self- image into male and female, it also shows that Ulaqayi has internalised36 his father’s demands as his support over against his brothers. This is greatly facilitated by the fact that his mother became the mouthpiece for the same paternal talk and demand, which is what he told his invisible father while weeping at his grave. When I asked more about his oneiric woman-man change, Ulaqayi said that there was another, and clearly related, vision. Thus:

I saw overhere (in the dream), I put on a woman’s skirt and I came near the place where I was sleeping (i.e. his home at the time). I come, come (towards home) – and I dropped this skirt and I put on trousers. Aiy! I look thus: first overthere (I am) a woman; I came back (towards home) I became man. I saw it thus and I thought: “I think that my father – that is what he was talking about (while he was alive). He is doing it to me (because) he is angry and he is showing me this”.

Here the same transformation is expressed but in a more acute imagery involving as vehicles skirt and trousers, emblematic of the female/male difference, and, as a correlate of the sexuation process, his movement from a distal place to his home. The imagery implies that he looks at himself as being in a starting position without a marked sexual attribute. He assumes it by putting on the skirt, which makes him a woman; then he advances towards the sleeping place, which is a womb-like space and, therefore, suggests transformative regression. At that point he drops the skirt (his womanliness) and puts on trousers (assumes manliness).38 Then what follows is a transitional rupture of the dream-experience into wakefulness, marked by his invocation of the father’s talk, which has now become an additional means of his self-ratification that he will use against his brothers who have to fulfil his demands.

The dream-imagery is particularly revealing of his libidinal body- image. As constituted in his un/conscious and viewed by his observing intrapsychic egoity he appears objectified in full embodiment within the oneiric-space. The fact that his sexual transformation is articulated through attire is also a manifest expression of its general cultural significance, since Yagwoia explicitly see attire as the supplementation of bodily envelopment, thereby codetermining bodily sexedness and attribution.39 Although in the dream his sexed identity flickers and changes as easily as he puts on and/or drops a skirt or trousers, it would be mistaken to see it as symptomatic of the fragility of his core-female self- identification which, on the other hand, is deeply somatized and expressed in his womanly habitus. I am inclined to think that the manifest splitting of his oneiric self-image may be indicative of his more tentative relation to his own actual male genital body image which, given Ulaqayi’s professed desire to have a vagina, seems to be narcissistically weakly cathected. But by the same token, as an actual libidinal experience of his own desire, this ideal auto-contra-sexual (female) body-image would also completely utilise his penis as the appropriate erotogenic zone aroused in response to his imaginary vagina. Which is to say, there is no absence of genital excitation and pleasure in Ulaqayi’s libidinal- erotogenic self-circuity, with or without an actual vagina, precisely because his libidinal embodiment is structured by its phallic (i.e., bisexual) dynamics and schematism. And as an authentic kwol-aaple, his incarnation of this determination was excessive, precisely because he subsumed within himself both his own and his mother’s phallus as one and the same, and without a rupture.

What about that of his father? From everything I know about him, Ulaqayi at no point attempted to extract his father’s bone (phallic power), but I can say that he did so in respect of his mother’s to the extent that he is the incarnation of her phallic determination and that, thanks to his piglets, he could bear children like her. One has to be careful in assessing the significance of the splitting of his self-image in conjunction with his internalisation of his father’s admonitions. It is clear enough, due to his father’s ilymane (spirit of the dead), that perhaps for the first time in his life his soul was deeply affected by a different ‘shine’ – man’s. But this kind of paternal illumination may well not be strong enough to penetrate, like a knife, the maternal ouroboric container within which Ulaqayi both hatched and remained preserved as the unidimensional man-woman that he was. Accordingly, the fate of this actual spirit father has to be comprehended within the psycho- ontological matrix generated by the Yagwoia ouroboric Self rather than, for instance, by Lacan’s schemata of the subject and desire articulated in the lingual matrix of the Other. Let us, therefore, follow further Ulaqayi’s trajectory, especially in view of the fact that what became dominant in his internalisation of his father was his talk. Whatever Ulaqayi had to say about himself was framed in reference to his father’s pre-mortem admonitions, which became, so to speak, a ‘viaticum’ for his son’s life shadowed by the pledge that he (father’s spirit) will kill the son if his brothers didn’t fulfil his demand.

Commenting further on his dream-visions Ulaqayi not only repeatedly said what the old father was saying before he died but that now it is the old mother who is

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