Aiyahuuuuuu!

Every year when March comes along, the DWU Community prepares to host one of its major events – the DWU Graduation Ceremony! This year was the first time the annual event was held during the weekday – on Friday and it didn’t disappoint. All the graduands were in their full regalia and every did their best to dress and look well.

I guess I have attended a few of these DWU graduations and seem to know the general layout and proceedings of the day. Everyone would be seated and listen to speeches, wait their turn and then receive their certificates – whatever level that may be. A few graduated with Diplomas, Masters and even one person received a Doctoral degree but I believe the majority were Bachelor level graduands. I guess graduations are also times when emotions are high as well. Many feel elated, triumphant and even relieved after completing a number of years of schooling and more importantly, overcoming financial difficulties associated with getting a university qualification.

On attending a few of the graduation events at DWU, I am beginning to observe a particular phenomenon that is happening and becoming more prevalent each year – it is the way people express their jubilation or triumph or satisfaction when their family, or relative’s name is called by the Master or Mistress of Ceremony. There is this shout by an individual in among the crowd of onlookers, most often by a female, that is heard although out the entire arena.

Academic staff getting ready to enter the graduation arena
Academics being led into the arena by a dancing group
The graduands are seated with their full academic regalia
Parents, relatives, supporters, family and friends gather to witness the occassion
I did a a YouTube Short with some videos and photos I took during the ceremony.
Academic staff and invited guests speak to the students
After the graduation, two students meet with their former academic staff – Mr. Samson Papapu who taught in the Health Management and Systems Development Department
Some of the many students who graduated today

This shout: ‘Aiyahuuuuuuu’ which I believed is predominantly from the Chimbu province of PNG (someone can correct me on this) and from a female is often seen as something symbolic rather than an expression. In my mind, I often feel this shout is often felt deep within a person but due to a lack of verbal elicitation of that feeling, it just rolls out of the mouth like a cross between a ‘sigh’ and a ‘rainbow’. Does that make sense? Well, that’s how I feel about that shout.

When this is shouted by someone in the crowd, there is no discrimination or taunts or shushing. People keep quiet and listen to this shout as it echoes throughout the floor of the ceremony . It is expected and I believe, appreciated. Why do I say appreciated? Because when you listen to that shout ‘Aiyahuuuuuu’ it feels like someone is saying: ‘After all these years…after all the hard work…after all the financial difficulties, my child or son or daughter has finally made it. They have graduated from University.” During that shout, the voice quivers and people in the crowd feel the weight of the emotion of the person who has shouted. I’m beginning to think that this is a unique situation that happens only in PNG school graduations these days.

Other onlookers or supporters of graduating students may not shout ‘Aiyahuuuuuuu’ but they still make some noise to let others know about how they feel about their family member or relative who is walking up to receive his or her certificate on stage. I have heard: ‘Em sister blong mi ya!’ and ‘Yes em tasol yah’ and even ‘Pawa-fuuulll yah!’ which shares the same sort of emotion as the ‘Aiyahuuuuu’ but not as poignant. While these shouts of expression are welcomed, I often feel they fall along the lines of making, those whose names are being called to be seen as ‘individuals’ whereas the ‘Ayahuuuu’ is more like an announcement to others of someone ‘overcoming’ challenges and the weight being lifted off their shoulders.

So the next time you hear a lady among the graduation crowd shouting ‘Aiyahuuuuu’ just be quiet, appreciate the moment and enjoy the graduation ceremony!

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