The Story of Keiyari, Imerer, Kikemermer and Tekei
Long ago, a young man named Keiyari, lived in Kaip in the Meuram tribal districts of North Eastern Erub (Darnley Island). Keiyari’s father had passed away and he was solely raised by his widowed mother, Mair, until he became a makrem (young man).
One day, he told his mother he would was going to trade with the Peiuduram and Saisarem people of Western Erub and set out with his friends and fellow Meuram people. Upon their return from a day of bartering, Keiyari told his friends that he would stay and return once he found himself a suitable wife from the Saisarem or Peiuduram villages.
It was not long before Keiyari spotted two young, beautiful Saisarem sisters from the small bay of Irmed. Their names were Imermer, who was the eldest sister and, Kikemermer, the youngest sister, daughters of a widow named Tekei. Keiyari decided he would have both as his wives and approached their akur meta (traditional grass hut) pretending to be ill and wounded. Tekei and her two daughters quickly ran to his aid and took him into their hut, where they cared for him, and insisted he spend the night. The next morning, Keiyari thanked Tekei and her daughters for their hospitality and said he would set back home. Still claiming to feel unwell, Keiyari asked Tekei if she would permit her daughters to keme (accompany) him as far as Mekik Paikai. Tekei agreed and the three set off.
Once they arrived at Mekik Paikai, Keiyari insisted the two sisters accompany him a little further to Kaiziz as he still felt ill. Before Imermer could reply, Kikemermer quickly agreed, and they reluctantly continued on to Kaiziz. Once again, upon their arrival of Kaiziz, Keiyari still claimed he was too unwell to continue on his own and requested the two sisters assist him to Sesengab. The sisters agreed and they kept going. Once again, they were persuaded to go on further to Bikar Paikai, the au nener (tribal border) between the Peiuduram and Meuram tribes and then further on entering Meuram territory where they continued to Kemus, Maier Med and Serar Urpi.
As they arrived at Serar Urpi, the sound of the Meuram drums and singing could be heard over the hill in Kiariawak, where the Meuram people were holding an end of initiation feast. Pleading once more to the two sisters to accompany him to the ceremony, the sisters stood silent and reluctant, taking a glance back at Mekik Paikai, thinking of their mother who was alone in Irmed. They eventually agreed to Keiyari’s request and set off to what they hoped was their final destination since they were now impatiently eager to return home. Climbing the steep hill, Keiyari leaned on the two sisters, putting an arm over each for support until they arrived at Kiariawak where his village was gathered, and he introduced the sisters as his wives. Imermer and Kikemermer were in disbelief and shocked by the trickery that had befallen them.
The two sisters were brought waruwar moderr (special patterned mats), that they were instructed to sit on while gifts were given to omar (honor/respect/appreciate) them, while the Meuram people performed lidasmerem (staring act ritual). This was the traditional custom carried out when an outsider would be brought into their homeland.
Several days had passed and Keiyari was required to participate in the Nam Kerem Zogo (turtle magic) ceremony at Bariadog sacred grounds with the Mueram men folk. Aware of his departure, the two sisters told Keiyari’s mother, Mair, that they were going into the bushes to relieve themselves and they would not be long. Once they reached the scrub the two sisters took to their heels, running as fast as they could down the hill through to Serar Urpi, cautiously hiding from view.
Meanwhile, the Nam Kerem Zogo ceremony had concluded and Keiyari began to make his way home. On his journey back a strange feeling had overcome him, and he quickly ran home. On arrival he asked his mother, “Ama ai, aka kara neis Kosker nese nese akai ne, wi nadeh ai?” (Mother, what’s become of my two wives, where are they?) His mother replied, “Waa, karim wi sumes, em daraweidare ei usi apaupem.” (I’m not sure, I think they wandered into the bushes to relieve themselves).
Keiyari knew something was wrong and that his two brides had fled. He grabbed his bow and red and black ubar kep (bird knock down arrows) and set off to find his brides. It wasn’t long before Keiyari reached Serar Urpi where he spotted the two sisters running along the beach below at Maier Med heading for Bikar Paikai. Keiyari shouted “Stop!”. The sisters ignored his plea and ran faster. In an attempt to injure them, Keiyari fired his Ubar Kep but his arrows fell short.
Imermer and Kikemermer reached their home with Keiyari in close pursuit, gasping for air they told their mother what had happened. Their mother, Tekei, grabbed her black ‘Kuseker’ (yam digging stick) and took her daughters to hide behind idid bakerr (black rocks). As Keiyari drew near, Tekei sprung out from behind the rock and struck him with her kuseker piercing him through his right underarm and out through to the left. Keiyari dropped his bow, leaving him defenceless and vulnerable as the two sisters joined their mother in attacking Keiyari with wooden stakes and miskor (giant clam shells).
As they fought, a magical force interfered and transformed Keiyari into a ‘Keiyar’ (crayfish) and he retreated backwards into the sea under the reef rocks. Tekei was transformed into a flowery cod, and fled angrily into the sea, while her daughters were initially turned into Oboibi (spiritual female sea creatures) but their disobedience angered the spirits, changing them into idid baker stranding them on Irmed.
Today the Torres Strait painted crayfish carries two distinctive black markings, on the left and right side of its body which is said to be the battle scars called zizdub, obtained from Tekei’s kuseker. These two points are detrimental to crayfish when speared and will leave them stunned or paralysed.
The people of Central and Western Torres Strait, including Papua New Guinea coastal villages and Aboriginal people of the Cape York Peninsula, all commonly know crayfish to be Kaiyar, derived from Keiyar or Keiyari of the Meuram tribe.