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 diversity.
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 and death.
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.