Through his cultural art studies, Darnley Island community elder Kapua Gutchen (Snr) is sharing the stories of his people.

My artwork depicts a very powerful sorcerer named Saiid who took the form of a waumer (frigate bird). Saiid, also known as Sido, originally came from Kupamar (Kawai Island) south of the mouth of Dodogab Kusa (Fly River) in Papua New Guinea.

Saiid brought many exotic food plants to Mer (Murray Island) and made the Meriam people happy. However, Saiid had a dark side and would use sorcery to seduce women. Saiid’s last abductee was a widow named Kudar. Using sorcery, Saiid shrunk Kudar to fit inside his buzilepei (sorcerer’s hand basket), which also contained his sorcery stones and feathers. Saiid got into his canoe and fled Mer heading north west. Kudar’s two sons, Kos and Abob, went after Saiid to execute him and rescue their mother.

As the brothers’ canoe got close enough to kill Saiid, he magically changed into a giant waumer (frigate bird). As Saiid started to soar upwards, Kos and Abob managed to knock out his central tail feathers with sticks — this is why frigate birds have V-shaped tail feathers today. Kudar unfortunately fell out of the sorcerer’s basket and into the sea where she became a small reef called Aum Kep near Mer.

Saiid flew to Erub where he saw some tribesmen and women eating raw fish, so he magically sent fire down to them so they could cook their fish. Saiid named these people Saisarem after himself. 

When Kos and Abob arrived at Erub in search of Saiid, they built the first stone fish trap at a place called Kegawarsi which is known today as Kedawarsi. The brothers named the trap after Saiid, calling it Sai. The brothers hoped the trap would catch sardines (tup) and that Saiid, in the form of the frigate bird, would descend into the trap to feast where they could kill him. Instead, Saiid escaped them and flew west to Ugar (Stephen Island).

Kos and Abob went after Saiid and they wounded him at a place called Mamred, meaning where blood was spilt. The wound infuriated Saiid and he went into a rage. Saiid directed a powerful sorcery upon the two brothers and they metamorphosed into two prism shaped black rocks, which can still be found on Mamred to this day. Saiid then flew to Kupamar to his abode high above in a very tall tree called Nabea and he eventually died of his wounds and was buried at a place called Aisa in Kupamar.

To this day, the black frigate bird with its V-shaped tail feather is called Saiid, the stone fish trap is called Sai, and the Erub tribespeople that Saiid gave fire to are known as the Saisarem Tribe of Erub Darnley Island. 

Find out more about the Certificate III in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Arts (CUA30515).

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