A mother of two has celebrated 15 years living among a tribe of cannibals who regard women’s breasts as a delicacy.
Susan Rhodes*, 43, from [Scotland], volunteered to live with the Kamula tribe in a remote village in western Papua New Guinea after her church asked for someone to translate the Bible into the local language. She took her Finnish husband, Iska, and their children, and set about learning the language from scratch.
Many of the Kamula people had never seen a white person until the late 1970s. They used to hide from planes, believing the huge “smoking bird” would swoop down to eat them.
But Dekapowe, the tribal leader, travelled for days to a mission outpost after hearing stories about a new tribe that had moved to the forest.
Mrs Rhodes said: “The Kamula did everything they could do to make us feel at home, and were very eager to teach us their language. They found us very funny in our initial attempts to speak Kamula, and found everything we did fascinating.
“They got a house ready for us to live in and brought fruit and white grubs, which are highly prized. They were fascinated in particular by our sons, Benji and Peter, who were the first white-skin children they had ever seen.”
But the tribe’s eating habits took some getting used to.
Mrs Rhodes said men in the remote village in western Papua New Guinea would cut off women’s breasts during raids and carry them home to eat.
She said: “The Kamula have been cannibals for generations. Apparently women’s breasts were one of the most tender parts, and if the men were in a hurry after a raid on another village, they would just lop off the breasts and take them back to the village.”
She said the Kamula would eat “anything that moved” including rats, snakes, bats and slugs. On a trip to a neighbouring village, Mrs Rhodes was offered a whole chicken, complete with feathers and beak.
She said: “The women had been finding bush-fowl eggs as we had walked, which are four times the size of a hen’s egg.
“They cracked one open and a chick cheeped and jumped out. They cut the chick up the middle, laid it out on top of the sago, wrapped it in banana leaves and put it on the fire.
“They then gathered round to watch me eating it, so I stoically munched my way through bones and feathers, saying how delicious it was.”
Mrs Rhodes, sponsored by the Wycliffe Bible Translators, which has a base in Linlithgow, West Lothian, worked with local translators to complete a native language version of the Bible. Now, 15 years after her arrival, the first Bible has been printed. A huge party was held to mark the event.
Mrs Rhodes said: “The first time I saw the Kamula Bible was totally indescribable. I had a lump in my throat, that there it was.”
But with their work done, the family are to stay with the Kamula, who they now consider friends. They plan to return to Scotland in 2008 after the boys finish at the local high school.
Mrs Rhodes said: “I’m the only Scot out here and I do miss the accent as well as the scenery. I also miss my Irn Bru and vanilla slices. It will also be nice to drive on paved roads once again. We will be sad when we have to leave.”
* The name of this person has been changed on request to protect privacy.