Enga is one of the provinces in Papua New Guinea. The people of Enga are called Engans—they are a majority ethnic group—speaking one language in all its five districts: approximately 500,000 people. Enga is unique among the provinces in Papua New Guinea in that it has only one major linguistic and ethnic group: Enga speakers. Although dialects of the Enga language vary greatly, Engans' shared ethnic identity overshadows the existence of other ethnic groups in the province.
One of the world’s last frontier, where traditional lifestyles and practices are still very much intact
Enga is amongst the provinces which holds a Cultural Show to display, value and preserve their unique culture. Both young and old, continue to uphold their traditional culture by practising a showcase of dance, ritual, traditional crafts and skills presenting the many facets that make up the culture of the people of Enga. The show is being held once a year in early August for three consecutive days.
With a population of around 250,000 in Hela province, the Huli community is the largest in the highlands. They are famous for their unique custom of wearing impressive wigs decorated with tropical feathers.
"I want people to reflect on how they look at indigenous people, and themselves." - Mundiya Kepanga
In addition to these elaborate headdresses grown from their own hair, they wear bright facial paint in red, yellow and white – colours chosen to strike fear into their enemy in times of conflict. Nowadays, Huli men more often wear their traditional dress to sing and dance.
The Kaluli people live in scattered villages in the dense jungle on the slopes of Mount Bosavi in the southern highlands. They live by fishing, hunting and gathering. Their fertile gardens grow thick with breadfruit, bananas and green vegetables.
The Kaluli's impressive headpiece is decorated with cockatoo feathers hunted by their ancestors.
In the villages, Kaluli people live in longhouse communities. The longhouse is a wooden structure measuring around 40 by 10 metres, built on poles at the centre of the village. Approximately 15 families – up to 90 people – can live in a single longhouse.
More than 300 languages are spoken among the various communities along the Sepik River. Their different heritage, rituals and historical backgrounds distinguish these groups, but one factor connects them all: their life revolves around the river. This area of Papua New Guinea is one of the least affected by outside influences.
Living in the village is much better than living in town – I can hear my own emotions here.
Around 430,000 people live here, relying on whatever the river and the forest provides. The Iatmuls form one of the largest cultural groups around the Sepik, with around 10,000 people in some 25 villages. They are known for their decorative wood carvings, ancient spirit houses and ritualistic crocodile inspired scarification.
The Korafe community lives close to the town of Tufi in the north-east of Papua New Guinea’s main island. Tufi is close to Cape Nelson, a coastal area consisting of tropical ‘fjords’. Korafes are known for their impressive facial tattoos and feathered headdresses, and at ceremonies and special events, they wear tapa cloths, shell jewellery and feathers.
The impressive Korafe headdress is worn only by men.
The impressive Korafe headdress is worn only by men and is constructed from the brightly coloured feathers of the birds-of-paradise, sometimes combined with leaves. Shaped as a crown, they are worn along with grass skirts, shell necklaces and facial paint to form the traditional costume.
The Tolais, meaning ‘friend’, mainly live around Kokopo on the smaller island of East New Britain. They believe in Christianity, which missionaries brought to the islands fairly recently. As well as following the Kuanua, the translated Christian Bible, they also maintain their own traditional spirits and beliefs.
The Duk-Duk are considered to be the most powerful spirits and are feared within the community.
The Tolai community is particularly well known for its Duk-Duk dancers. The National Mask Festival is held each year, and it offers the perfect opportunity for the Duk-Duk to show off their dancing skills while wearing impressive masks to disguise themselves as male and female spirits.