|Located just south of the equator, 160km north of Australia, Papua New Guinea (PNG) is part of a great arc of mountains stretching from Asia, through Indonesia and into the South Pacific. |
Consisting of four regions, 19 provinces, and the capital city of Port Moresby, PNG also boasts over 600 islands, approximately 6 million people, and more than 800 indigenous languages. This beautiful country is home to some of the most extraordinary and unique art and craft in the Pacific.
Papua New Guinea’s rich culture continues to fascinate the world, with a host of small and uniquely individual communities, some home to as few as 100 people. The heterogeneous nature of the indigenous population has resulted in each of these groups having its own customs and traditions.
Picture by Martin Maden
|Some of the popular cultural attractions, promoted through tourism and travelers, include the Tapa cloth culture of the Oro Province, the Yam Festival of the Trobriand Islands in Milne Bay Province, and the Malangan culture of the Tabar Islands in New Ireland Province. Much of the material and spiritual art of these cultures is displayed and used regularly in vibrant rituals and celebrations. These traditional practices, languages, songs, dances and ceremonies still exist largely in isolation, highlighting why many of the dialects are so distinct - even to each other. The widespread use of Melanesian Pidgin bridges the language gap and serves as the lingua franca of PNG. |
PNG is home to the largest area of intact rainforest outside of the Amazon.
Still untouched, wild and undeveloped, the country has magnificent scenery that ranges from pristine coral atolls to volcanic mountains, dense tropical rainforest and large rivers. The Owen Stanley Range divides the mainland, a massive central spike with peaks towering over 4000m. Great rivers begin their journey to the sea from these mountains, among them the Sepik and Fly Rivers.
These rugged mountain chains, fertile coastal plains, flooded delta regions and mangrove swamps are home to many species of wildlife, insects and fauna. The natural ecosystems exist alongside breath-taking sandy beaches and sheltered bays nestled in crystal waters.
The mountainous terrain and deep cave systems offer wonderful adventure opportunities for walkers, cavers and climbers, and there is canoeing, kayaking and fishing on the river and delta system. PNG remains one of the top diving destinations in the world, with warm coastal waters and striking coral reefs around the mainland coast and islands of the Bismarck Sea and Milne Bay areas.
Economically, PNG is blessed with natural gas, oil, gold and copper as well as forest and, marine resources. It has the potential to be one of the richest countries in the Pacific.
The first inhabitants of the PNG were Papuan, Melanesian, and Negrito tribes, who altogether spoke more than 800 distinct languages. The eastern half of Papua New Guinea was first explored by Spanish and Portuguese explorers in the 16th century. In 1828, the Dutch formally took possession of the western half of the island (now the province of West Papua [Irian Jaya], Indonesia). In 1885, Germany formally annexed the northern coast and Britain took similar action in the south.
In 1906, Britain transferred its rights to British New Guinea to a newly independent Australia, and the name of the territory was changed to the Territory of Papua. Australian troops invaded German New Guinea (called Kaiser-Wilhelmsland) in World War I and gained control of the territory under a League of Nations mandate. New Guinea and some of Papua were invaded by Japanese forces in 1942. After being liberated by the Australians in 1945, it became a United Nations trusteeship, administered by Australia. The territories were combined and called the Territory of Papua and New Guinea (PNG).
PNG became independent in 1975. Its culture continues to intrigue the world; hence, it has earned its name as the “land of the unexpected”.