Kuyam was the son of Kuynam of Mabuiag. As a youth Kuyam learned to use his father’s Kubai (Wumara). He practiced daily untill he became an expert mastering the techniques of using it. As he grew to manhood, Kuyam’s thoughts turned into fighting, and the idea took shape in his mind that, in combination with his father’s Kubai, the wearing of emblems endowed with his own magic powers would make him invincible.
ZUGUBAL The Zugubal of western Torres Strait looked like human forms while they inhabit the island world, but they were super humans in their strength and performances. Thagai and Kang were known as great leaders of the Zugubal. They were brothers to Kuynam (Kuyam’s mother) and Kwaka. The Day that Kuyam reached this decision, the Zugubal were at Maiil Dan, a lagoon in a reef to the south of Mabuiag. They were lead by two brothers, Thagai who was keen sighted, and Kang who was almost blind. When they returned to Gumu, they received orders from Kuyam. They were to catch a Gapu and use it to obtain the Wunuwa. When the brothers left Gumu, they understood that Kuyam required every part of the turtle. The crew of the canoe consisted of Uthimal, Usal, Kuyur and Keg, and also Kwaka (sister to the leaders). At first they fished at the local reef for some Gapu, with no luck they returned ashore and told Kuyam they would head to Badu the next day. Very early the next morning hey were at Thiki, a small island off the southern tip of Badu, they searched for Sugu with no luck till the sun was high in the sky. They finally saw a big one and caught it. Using the Sugu for bait, Thagai and Kang caught a Bug at Tidui and poled to the reef called Garirai where they soon captured a Wunuwa. From Garirai they headed full speed to Mawai. They used their elbows as poling sticks – as they had done since the moment of their setting out that morning. At Mawai they carried the turtle ashore and cut the flesh from its shell. After this had been done they had replaced the flesh in the shell and carried it to the canoe and left for Gumu. On their arrival, Kuyam came down to the beach to meet them. There he spread a mat on the sand and laid out every part of the turtle – carapace, flesh, and organs. The Sib and the Kunai Baba (the two parts right at the tail end of the shell) were missing. They were asked if they had eaten the missing parts. They told him that they ate nothing and could have forgotten to replace it in the Wunuwa shell-back. They sped back Mawai to search for the Sib and the Kunai Baba and found them underneath the leaves upon which they had placed the turtle for butchering. The two uncles went and came to a point on the island called Sabikmarnnguk. Along with their sister Kwaka, they filled their vessels at the water hole. The crew then dived to look for crayfish. Kang and Thagai took the canoe poles and when the first man came up they speared him in the eye, he died and floated in the sea. They did the same to each man as he came until all were dead. Thagai and Kang sent the spirits of the dead to different parts of the Maluiligal sky as stars. These stars would bring rain which were later to be known as Zugubaw Aril (Zugub rain) Uthimal was sent to Moegi Dhaudhai (New Guinea) you have to bring rain. Usal was sent to Moegi Dhaudhai (New Guinea) when Uslal surfaced they would be plenty of rain. Kuyur was sent to Buru. Before the sager monsoon sets, He will bring rain in the morning and when the wind shifts he brings rain in the afternoon. Kek was sent to come up in the south between Badu and Mua. When it comes up, the Kuthai, Sawur, Urgubau will ripeen. Kwaka, Thagai and Kang then headed back to Thiki and returned the Sugu into its original rock home. On board the canoe, their sister Kwaka made herself a nuisance by moving from stern to bow and bow stern, never sitting still and forever calling her own name. Kwak Kwaka Kwaka. Her fidgety behavior made Thagai very angry. When told to be quiet, Kwaka obeyed for a while, and then she became restless again. From Thiki they headed to Muyi Wakaid where Thagai and Kwaka went to fill their Kusul up with water. They filled some and took them back to the canoe leaving behind those that were still empty. No sooner had they reached the canoe, however, then Thagai sent Kwaka back to fill and fetch the remaining Kusul by herself, and she had not gone far, when poled the canoe out from the shore. By the time Kwaka was back from the well, they were well out at sea. “Ngapagarr kuiya tid,ngai ngipen babath”.
The brothers shouted back that they would not have her on board the canoe, and that Badu will be home. In vain Kawaka pleaded with Thagai to put back for her. She was still calling out to him when the canoe disappeared out of her sight. Presently she changed into a brown bird. From that time she had never done anything else but fly from tree to tree, never stopping long in any one place but always restlessly hopping and flitting about. And, as she did in her brother’s canoe, so she still calls her own name, over and over again. Kwaka Kwaka Kwaka Kwaka.
WOMAN AT MUA During their journey back to Gumu, they anchored at Usar, a rock off the north-western end of Mua, Kang staying in the canoe while Thagai went ashore to look for fruit. Thagai found a tall heavily laden Kupa tree. He began to pluck and eat the ripe, white fruit. He spat out the seeds to the grounds below. Now this Kupa tree was the property of a woman of Mua. She had not visited it for several days and chose to visit it while Thagai was robbing it. She brought with her a number of baskets to fill. However, just as she set them down, a seed which bore teeth mark fell close to her. Then she noticed Thagai’s feet and, following up the length of his body with her eyes, recognized a Zugub. Terrified, she ran from the spot. Thagai glancing down saw the woman and knew that she would tell her people she had seen him. So he stamped his feet, and there came thunder and lightning and a deluge of rain. But it was a very narrow storm, limited in extent to the path taken by the women. In her mad, erratic flight: no matter which way she ran she was trapped inside a torrential downpour, on either side of which the sun shone brightly. There was no escape for the woman, and she died. Zugubal always raised storms if they were surprised in their secret existence. After then returning the missing parts to Kuyam, a strong wind blew from the south taking them first Dhaudhai and then Saibai. This wind is called Zugubaw Yawaraw Gub, literally meaning Zugub journey wind.
KUTHIBU & GIRIBU One night when there was a new moon, Kuyam took two pieces of the turtle shell his uncle had given him, and lay on the beach at the mouth of a Waidun Sarka near Gumu, and drew on each shape of the turtle-shell the contour of the moon. He called GIRIBU and KUTHIBU.
Kuthibu was the larger piece worn on his chest, Kuthibu was the smaller piece worn on his back. When he had finished cutting them out to that shape, he sent his Toemoegan to gather some green coconut leaves with which he made fringed crossed shoulder bands and anklets, he also adorned himself with leglets, armlets and a belt which on he hung a deep Urakar dress. Finally he put on the crescent shaped turtle shell objects, putting one on his chest and the other on his upper lip. Then he danced about, brandishing his Dhikun (javelin) spear, while he sang over and over again; “Mawa Kedha Mawa Kedha Mawa Kedha”. The crescent Kuyam wore on his face had been made too long and slender as he could not turn his head around as the sharp points hurt him on the shoulders. So he had to make another. But because he spent such a long time making these two, by now it was almost full moon. So he had to wait till the moon was once more in her first quarter. The next crescent he made was shorter and deeper, almost half moon shape. This one answered his purpose. These crescents had magical properties, and directed the wearer in the straight course towards the enemies and enabled him to be victorious. Kuthibu and Giribu became his personal Augadh, which he endowed with magical power from himself. They became living things, and he fed them with the thick rich blood of the Mata Kurup (small rock cod). Uydh nungu puy poerapar wanadhin nungu kosar awgadhiya.
ADHI KUYAM Some people believed him to be a ghost, but all were afraid, even those who recognized him. Kuyam ran to Gumu, from time to time dashing into the sea and drinking saltwater. Seeing this awadhe Toemoegan wondered what Kuyam had done, for Kuyam’s behavior was that of one in frenzy from killing. Kuyam paid for his Mother’s death One day Kuyam entered the house of Kuynam, his blind mother, when she weaving a mat. Coming from behind her with his big toe he withdrew a strip of a pandanus leaf that his mother had just plated into the mat. Kuynam now blind and old, swore at the culprit. Kuyam was furious and went out to Toemoegan and ordered him to cut green coconut leaves and other plants which he mentioned. This he did, and gave them to Kuyam who made cross shoulder belts, armlets, leglets, and when he had accoutered himself, he told his awadhe Toemoegan to go far away. The following day he went to Bidhai Kup, a small fertile spot at Gumu, and dressed himself has he had on the previous day. Then after running around Bidhai Kup until he was fighting mad, he went to his mother who, as usual, sat weaving. He called to his mother, when Kuynam raised her head at his direction, Kuyam drove his Takul (pronged spear) into both her eyes killing her. Kuyam took a Upi (bamboo beheading knife) and sharpened it with an Uz (a piece of quartz). He told himself that he would cut off the heads of New Guinea men. He then decapitated his mother’s head, put it in a basket. Kuynam’s brother cried. All the other Mabuiag men feared that Kuyam would soon kill all of them, so they rolled up their mats and ran away to Sopalai (at the other side of Mabuiag) and remained there.
KUYAM & BOIGU Kuyam went looking for his uncle, calling him to come. Toemoegan answered in a voice that quivered weakly. Kuyam instructed him to prepare their canoe for their journey, and to place in it his Kuyam’s fighting weapons, the two awgadh, Kuthibi and Giribu. Before stepping into the canoe, Kuyan held up his Kubai, which of its own accord, turned in his hands until it pointed due north. Kuyam and Toemoegan sailed in that direction. They anchored at Beka (reef towards the north of Mabuiag). Kuyam then told Toemoegan to catch a small Mata Kurup which would be enough for Kuthibu and Giribu to sniff. Kuyam Stood in the canoe, spat on the tip of his Kubai and held it high. It first turned itself to the north towards Dhaudhai, but afterwards moved slightly to give the exact indication of where he was to fight Boigu. While Toemoegan was searching for the Mata Kurup, he watched his wadhuam with fear thinking Kuyam will soon kill him. Kuyam saw the poor man’s terror and being sorry for his awadhe, stepped into the canoe and took off his accoutrements and stowed them into canoe to show that he was peaceably inclined. When Toemoegan came back with Kurup, he and Kuyam fed the Awgadh, cutting the fish and holding it close to the nose of each. As the blood dripped on Giribu and Kuthibu, the awgadh sniffed audibly and the blood disappeared. The next day awadhe and wadhuam sailed to Boigu and arrived at Koedalaw Bupur. Kuyam went ashore at once to look for people to kill. Toemoegan was told to remain in the canoe. Kuyam came across a place where all the people had surrounded themselves with a fence made of coconut palm leaves. The house had two doors. After setting fire to one of them, he went and stood outside the other, through which the people inside were forced to emerge when the flames caught the other end of the building. Kuyam killed them as they came out. The only person at Boigu who escaped him was a woman who managed to run away. Mawa Kedha, Mawa Kedha, Mawa Kedha, Mawa Kedha, Mawa Kedha, Mawa Kedha, Mawa Kedha, Mawa Kedha, Mawa Kedha & Aria Migi Dan, Kalia Migi Dan, amanaKuynamna Kazi, Danimaka ka pudaumaka, Ngai surka ngai Keu naki thamanu puzik, Aigi kakelinga nuka gimal thiyaik. Wa Peukainu Peukainu Kazir Rirma Kawaiar sasabiserbaria muruka waibenir waibenir muruka waibenir waibenir muruka waibenir waibenir. When he finished fighting, he lay down thinking someone might yet be alive, he waited and waited, but no one came. Kuyam went to the canoe and called out for Toemoegan and said; Patapanina ngai uzari nge kaipapa gulka mangi. Awadhe aiaBuruk Muy nithunu, Dhumani aiau ithamar kibuya geth mathaima, matha sabi kadaka pagaikkaipun. Kuyam told Toemoegan to bring three long ropes and another Upi (bamboo knife). Together they went to the village and cut off the heads of the slain men. Kuyam rapidly dislocated the necks and cut off the heads quickly, and all the time he looked about him thinking that someone might attack him from behind. Toemoegan looked like he was going to be sick, he slowly made small cuts with his Upi like a boy, and was shaking with fear. Kuyam showed his awadhe how to cut off the heads quickly if the necks were previously dislocated. He showed his awadhe the correct actions to the rhythmical accompaniment of the spoken words; Wait Kooky Bomu Kooky, Wait Kooky Bamako, Wait Kooky Bamako (Bad head, useless head bad head, useless head). All the heads were afterwards strung together with vine and taken to the canoe.
KUYAM AT SABA Kuyam and Toemoegan then headed to Saibai. They anchored at Warukuyk, a sand spit on the coast of New Guinea, which his two magical emblems had caused to become dry. These objects shone so bright that the men of Saibai saw them and thought they were two birds, Kwaka and Kaiyarpit. On Saibai Kuyam took his Dhikun and chased the people. He did not want to kill any of them, but only to frighten them. He overturned a Merewal (baler shell) only to find a man inside it. The man begged not to be killed.
KUYAM AT DAUAN From Saibai they sailed to Dauan. Toemoegan went ashore to see if the island was inhabited. Toemoegan found some people and told them that they must prepare a friendly welcome for Kuyam. They were instructed to spread a mat for Kuyam and bring him Biu and green coconut for food and drink. The people of Dauan did exactly this. In the early morning, Kuyam went up the hill to Thaugin. For a time he stood gazing south across the sea towards Mabuiag, tears streaming from his eyes as he thought of Kuynam whom he had killed. Then he turned his face north and saw a smoke of the scrub that the New Guinea men were burning in order to clear the ground for making their gardens. Kuyam again held up his Kubai and it pointed and fell in the direction of Dhaudhai.
KUYAM AT DHAUDHAI They arrived at Dhaudhai and went up a creek. The moon was full and Kuyam landed and went into the bush, and his two awgadh shone like flames. He then walked inland through long grass until he came to a place called Zibar. There he saw a long house with a single door at which a grey haired man sat. The men had been hunting wild pigs the previous day and were very tired. They were sleeping on one side of the village and the women and children on the other. Kuyam first collected all the bows and arrows which have been piled against the stock and and set fire to them at one end of the gateway. He set fire to the weapons and fought the men as they rushed out. When he finished fighting he lay down and kept still for along time, looking around all the time to see if anyone else was alive. Kuyam cut off the heads of the slain men and tied them in bunches. One at the end of each of the lengths of rope which he had bought from the canoe. These he hung over his shoulders so that there were two bunches of heads in front and behind. With one hand he held his Kubai and Dhikun, with his mouth he held the head of the grey haired old man. Toemoegan, alarmed at Kuyam’s long absence, wanted to get away as he feared that Kuyam was killed, but he thought he would wait a little longer. In a short time Kuyam returned as Kuthibu, and Giribu shone so brightly as to light the bushes all around. They loaded the canoe with the heads and sailed off at sunrise. When they arrived back at Gum on Mabuiag, Kuyam took all the heads on shore and cooked them in an Amai (earth oven) to clean them.
KUYAM AT PULU One morning some men came from Badu to Mabuiag in a long canoe which Kuyam had sent to them, and for which they now wanted to pay. They anchored off Gumu, and presented Kuyamwith a Wap, Waiwi, Dibadib, Uraz and Alup. Daily Kuyam ran from Gumu to the top of the hill close by, keeping a constant look out for approaching canoes. When he held his Kubai up, it spun and fell in the direction of Pulu. When Kuyam got to Pulu, he walked around to a place called Mumugu Buth. There he found a man sleeping waiting for their Amai (earth oven). Kuyam killed him with his spear. The man’s backbone broke like the sound of the wood snapping in two, waking the rest of the people at Pula. Kuyam thrust his Dhikun this way and that way; Mawa Kedha, Mawa Kedha, Mawa Kedha – until all were dead. Two managed to get in their canoe and paddled away, but he hurled a spear after them and split their canoe. The two men jumped into the water and swam. Although they were a long way off, Kuyam threw a Dike and transfixed one of them in the thigh, and as he could not pull it out, he had to tear the skin away from the spear. Kayak threw a third Dike which entered into the other mans ear. The two wounded men swam to Badu and went to the village and told the people that Kuyam had killed all the rest, and only they escaped. Soon later they fell dead as the dhikun were poisoned. Back at Gumu, Toemoegan collected all the heads of the men of Pulu and add it to Kuyam’s Sibuy (heap of skulls).
KUYAM’S DEATH The very next morning, Kuyam shivered, and thought it was a sign that something was about to happen. He sent Toemoegan to a lookout called Kuyaman Thoera. Toemoegan looked to the south and cried; “Ooh”… The sea was full of canoes approaching. The men in the canoes soon saw Kuyam and displayed their Gabagab, Thaik, Gagai and Takul; a sign for war. Kuyam twice waved his Kubai in the direction of Gumu, and returned it under his left arm, meaning that the men were to go where he would fight them. When the men arrived at Gumu, Kuyam killed them all. The men at Badu and Mua waited in vain for their canoes to return, their fear increasing as the day wore on, that Kuyam had killed their kinsmen. Under cover of darkness, more canoes sailed across to Mabuiag, these men going around to the western side of Mabuiag and hiding in the mangroves at the mouth of Ai Koesa till day break. In the morning Toemoegan walked across the island to Sipalai, to which the people of Bau had gone to live after Kuyam killed his mother Kuynam. He was turning over stones on the reef when the men hiding in the mangroves took him by surprise and killed him. They cut off his head then waved it on a poling stick on the bow of the canoe as they blew their Bu shells. Kuyam saw this and felt grief for his awadhe who served him. More canoes came and the fighting began. Kuyam killed a number of men, but there were too many for him. He changed into a Katakuyk (swallow) and flew to Bidhai Kup to gain a temporary respite, but his enemies quickly found him and hunted him into the open. Kuyam returned to his human form and fought on. The tip at the end of his Kubai broke. Forced to retreat, he ran backwards up the side of the hill which he had climbed daily in the past when going to his look out. When he reached the waterhole Kuyku Yaza, halfway up the hill side, one of his awgadh Giribu detached itself from his back and fell into the water, lodging itself into the roots of the Iwir tree which grew beside the pool. When the men pressed forward, Kuyam made a rush at them with a shout, and they retreated in terror. Kuyam retreated with his face to the foe. Again the enemy gathered courage and advanced, and once more they fled before the bold front of the weaponless Kuyam. Kuyam retreated up Kuyman Thoera and when he arrived at the summit, he sunk into a prone position and expired. The pursuers stood around in a ring around the dead hero, and one man took a Upi in one hand and with the other, he held up Kuyam’s head by the nose, and he chewed the scented bark of the paiwa tree and spat the redden saliva on Kuyam’s neck. As he was going to cut off the head he was advised not to, for Kuyam’s head was a hero’s head, and that of a great chief. A slight cut however had been made in Kuyam’s neck, and the blood spurted out onto the bushes. They then covered Kuyam’s body with stones. The next morning some women walked from Sipalai to Gumu for news of Kuyam and his enemies. One of them went to Kuyku Yaza to fetch water, only to be confronted by the sight of Kuyam’s awgadh, Giribu. She ran back to Gumu to where the Mua and Badu men were sitting.
She could not speak but from her throat came a series of grunts; “Eh-eh-eh-eh-ee-ee-ee ” and she pointed with her hands towards Kuyku Yaza. All the men followed the woman to Kuyku Yaza and they noticed that the projecting points were moving like those of insect feelers, and they plunged their hands into the water to grab Kuyam’s sacred Awgadh Giribu. The men laid down different types of mats to attract Giribu. They first tried a Pothwaku made from coconut palm leaves. Giribu moved further down the hollow trunk. The men then put a Minalai Waku made from pandanus leaves, Giribu still was not attracted and crawled further deep. The men then discussed the possibility of luring Giribu with the mats made from the fine bark of the tee-tree. The smooth bark of Zoey Ub bought Giribu into sight again, the dusky bark of the Poeythai Ub bought it close to the surface, so that its eyes protruded above the top of the water. When they put the bark of the Musil Ub, the effect on Giribu was immediate, and it leapt from the pool into the strip of bark. They folded the bark of the Awagadh and took it back to Gumu.
When the Mualgal sailed back to Mua, they took Giribu and hid it in a hole beneath a big stone to keep it safe for their people. After the missionaries came to Zenadh Kes, this hiding place was given the name Sathanan Kupai (Satans Navel).
Parts taken from Haddon; Volume 5, retold by Athe NUMA and Athe WARIA. Margaret Lawrie; Myths & Legends of the Torres Strait, retold by Aka MAURIE ESELI