This is the story the Gogodala tell of their origins and this is the story that animates their vision of the future.
"The ancestors came by canoe from the Holy Land of Yabisaba. We know it as Jerusalem. There were two boats, long and sturdy, hand carved from ancient trees. The red one carried the Segala clan and the yellow, the Paiya clan. The travelers spoke the language of Israel. They paddled in search of the far-off islands of Papua New Guinea, guided by the wisdom of an oracle called the Fire Source. The islands themselves, seven in all, had floated nearly 8,000 miles from the Middle East, destined to become home to the tribe those clans formed, God’s chosen people, the Gogodala. A Lost Tribe of Israel in the lush wilderness of a South Pacific Eden.
The Gogodala people who live in the swamp and grass plain near the Aramia River in the western part of the Gulf of Papua. Their villages are built on small hills or ridges which become islands in the wet season. Gogodala art forms are different from the rest of the Gulf as the designs are painted rather than carved using black, white, red and yellow clays which are mixed with plant juices and a tree resin to make water resistant paints. Aida is a Gogodala ancestral hero. His society's most powerful items were a rattle also known as aida, and the huge powerful drum, diwaka. These were stored in special lofts in the longhouses.
The Gogodala reclaimed their art and ceremonies from western and missionary influence in the late 1960s and 1970s and began carving and creating traditional forms which had last been collected in the 1930s and 1940s. Most of the Gogodala communities converted to Christianity starting in the 1930s. As their art form was so closely tied to their Aida cult the destruction of their old beliefs led to almost total destruction of their art form.
Like other groups in Papua New Guinea, Gogodala society has undergone an enormous change. The cannot be attributed to missionary influence alone, but we must not deny that their teaching have accelerated social changes. The Gogodala people accepted the Bible as the true gospel, but as they turned to read it, they also turned their backs on their ancestral gods and spirits. This is evident in the fact that many aspects of Gogodala heritage now lie dormant. But since they have accepted a new religion, they have had to build different temple and adopt foreign rituals, values and behavior, which now form the nucleus of the Gogodala's contemporary culture"
Excerpts from AIDI ‘Life and Ceremony of the Gogodala, A.L Crawford