Papua New Ginea has more than 4
million people speaking 800 different languages and living in mountainous,
coastal and island environments. This has produced a rich cultural
Most people still live in small villages and are
dependent on subsistence farming, retaining much of the inherited social
structure and customs affecting matters as diverse as gardening, marriage
The responsibility for the day-to-day work of gardening
and caring for children and animals still lies mainly with women. Social
units are based on family, clan and tribe. Ownership of material wealth is
vested in the household and controlled by the male elder. Wealth was not
traditionally accumulated for its own sake, but to be given away with
elaborate ceremony, creating prestige for the giver and imposing
obligations on the receiver. Reciprocity and family obligations remain
fundamental to PNG society.
Ancient rituals are still performed for important social
events. These ceremonies are presided over by the elders of the clan with
warriors painted in bright colours and adorned with feathers and shells.
Each of the 20 provinces has its own cultural festivals, the most popular
of which are the Hiri Moale (held in Port Moresby every September), the
Mount Hagen show (held in August) and the Goroka show (held in September).
This cultural diversity has produced a wide variety of
creative expression in pottery, weapons, carvings, basketwork, music and
dance. Many artifacts are displayed in the National lMuseum and Art
Gallery in Port Moresby. Traditional architectural influences are
reflected in the Parliament House building in Port Moresby and the PNG
High Commission in Canberra.
Many contemporary artists have drawn on ancient artistic
traditions in the fields of popular music and painting to create a new
dimension of PNG culture focused oin the present and the future.