What Is The Culture Of Papua New Guinea?

Dancers in Papua New Guinea. Editorial credit: isaxar / Shutterstock.com.
Dancers in Papua New Guinea. Editorial credit: isaxar / Shutterstock.com.

Officially known as the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, it is a country situated in Oceania. The island country has an area of about 178,700 square miles while the recent estimates place the population of the country at 8,084,999 people. The capital city, which is also the largest city, is Port Moresby. In the globe, the country has one of the most diverse cultures. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most underdeveloped countries as evidenced by a huge chunk of people living in rural centers and illiteracy. Only 18% of the population resides in urban regions. The diversity of the culture ranges from things like the language all the way to a huge number of cultural groups, some of which have not yet been discovered. Due to this obscurity and low level of development, it is no surprise that the culture is largely traditional even though there is a bit of modernity. Despite creeping modernity, the government has decided to protect these traditional systems in the Papua New Guinea Constitution.

6. Religions Practiced

The law of the land allows the citizens of PNG to have the freedom to choose their religions without any fear of repercussion. As of 2011, a census conducted in the country showed that the majority of the population (about 95.6%) is Christian while non-Christians make up only 1.4%. Another portion of the population, about 3.1% of the population, chose not to respond. Despite the domination of Christianity, the traditional beliefs and practices of the people have been mixed with modern religions.

Protestants, who constitute a whopping 70% of the population in the country, dominate the majority of the population. These Protestants go to varying churches including the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea, the United Church in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Other churches include the Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea, a diverse range of Pentecostal denominations, the Evangelical Alliance Papua New Guinea, and a few others. In addition, the Roman Catholic Church is present although it has a minority following of only 25% of PNG’s population.

The Muslim population in the country is minor. Estimates place the Muslim population in the country at around 2,000 people only. Of these 2,000 Muslims, most belong to the Sunni sect while the remaining belong to the Ahmadi group. The traditional beliefs are mostly centered on animism, that is, they involve the worship of objects or other worldly things like animals. Aside from animism, other traditions have certain aspects that involve praising the dead. These traditional systems are also known for their beliefs in evil spirits known as masalai, which “poison” people in order to kill them. Another common belief among the traditional systems is the practice of sorcery or puripuri.

5. Festivals

Most of the festival calendar in the country is dominated by cultural celebrations. The major reason for this cultural domination is the diversity in the ethnic groups living in the country and the deep-rooted traditionalism in the way of life. One such event is the Mt Hagen Show, which is held annually at the Kagamuga Show Grounds in order to display the splendid culture of PNG. Thousands of performers and spectators usually show up for this event. Other festivals include the Crocodile Festival to celebrate crocodiles, the Enga Cultural Show, which is held every August and frequented by tourists, and the Hiri Moale Festival to remember trading routes in the past. Other celebrations include the Morobe Province Agricultural Show and the Papua New Guinea Arts and Cultural Festival.

4. Cuisine

The staple food of the country includes starchy vegetables, which include yams, wild sago, sweet potatoes, rice, sweet potatoes, and breadfruit. These starchy foods are served together with things like fruit (such as coconuts and bananas) or wild greens. In addition to vegetation, the people eat meat from domesticated livestock as well as hunting of game like pork, marsupials, cassowaries, and birds. People living in the coast or areas with significant water bodies also eat fish, such as shellfish.

Meals are prepared twice a day from an oven dug on the ground. The food can be roasted or boiled. A common drink that is consumed throughout the day is tea while things like coconut milk, sugarcane, and leftovers are eaten during work. During ceremonial occasions, a large amount of meat is eaten.

3. Music And Dance

Traditional music is characterized by vibrant and colorful attired dancers who dance to their kind of music, which is known as sing-sing. The early stages of the 20th century saw the emergence of pop music, which also came with new instruments such as the guitar and the ukulele. Aside from pop music, the country has reggae music as well as hip-hop artists such as O-shen and Naka Blood. Some of the notable musicians include Ali Baba, Justin Wellington, and many more.

2. Literature

Most of the literature in the country is oral since the majority of the population cannot read or write. Most historians and academicians started taking an active interest in the country in the period following 1960. Orally, the people pass on things like clan genealogies, magic and sorcery, mortuary chants, initiation, and other things. Consequently, radio is a crucial form of communication, especially for people living in isolated regions. Television services are mostly available in urban areas. Aside from this, there are ongoing publications such as the Wantok, The PNG Writer, and others. Publishing is still young although the early 2000s saw a new wave of writers and academics for both religious and non-religious content.

1. Social Beliefs And Etiquettes

Etiquette in the country mostly revolves around reciprocating good deeds and hospitability. However, reciprocation is not always a requirement due to different levels of income. What a well-off person can do, for a less fortunate person it may be to too big to reciprocate. Unlike other cultures, the young and the elderly mingle freely with little restriction. During ceremonies, the young and the old will be seen clasping hands or dancing together. However, chiefly societies require that the people show respect to chieftains.


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