Where is Papua New Guinea?
Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean lies North of Australia and west of the Solomon Islands. To the north and northwest are the Philippines, South Korea and Japan. This large Island land mass with its surrounding smaller Islands is divided into two regions. The west section of the island is the Indonesian province of Irian Jaya and the East half of the island is Papua New Guinea.
Short history of Papua New Guinea
The island was first discovered in 1545 when it was named Nueva Guinea and in 1884 what is now a province of Indonesia was officially recognised as Dutch New Guinea while the Eastern part of the island was divided into two separate colonies. The north of this Eastern half of the island became German New Guinea and the south, British New Guinea.
The Northeast corner of the island was administered by a chartered trading company the German New Guinea Company of Berlin, which was formed specifically to exploit the ready supply cheap labour for the production of copra and coconut oil for export to Europe. Germany granted the company the rights to administer the territory on its behalf, and to negotiate with the native population. However in 1899 the charter was rescinded and this part of the island became an official German Territory under the auspices of the German Imperial government and was from then on known as German New Guinea.
The South Eastern portion of the island was formally annexed by the British in 1988 and was named British New Guinea. In 1906 this area was ceded to Australia and renamed Papua New Guinea. This south east part of the island was enlarged to incorporate German New Guinea at the start of the First World War in 1914. After the war many of the plantations in the Northern section were given to war veterans the League of Nations conferred trusteeship over New Guinea to Australia in 1921. There followed a time of moderate prosperity for New Guinea not just from the produce of the plantations but also from gold mining until the 2nd World War. During the 2nd World War Japan attempted to invade the island in a major offensive during the Pacific war. Bitter fighting continued on the island until the Japanese defeat in 1945.
The road to independence for Papua New Guinea began with the Papua and New Guinea Act of 1963 and by 1964 the majority in the PNG Assembly were native Papua New Guineans and 1968 a new ministerial system was adopted and Papua New Guinea had its own Administrator’s Executive Council. Finally in 1971 the road to independence was almost complete all that was required for self-government was by then in place. Self-Government was finally granted in 1973. In 1975 Papua New Guinea became an independent sovereign state with the Queen as its sovereign head. Since then Papua New Guinea has had many changes in government and has experienced internal wars especially with the island of Bouganville, which after 7 long years of bloody insurrection finally gained its independence from Papua New Guinea in 2005.
Papua New Guinea Land and Climate
The length of the island is dominated by its central mountain chain that is covered in tropical rain forest and fast flowing rivers, which descend from the highlands, create great tropical swamps in low lying areas before they finally reach the sea. The swamp forests are home to the local sago palm which provides a staple in the diet of the local people.
Drier areas are in the west of the country where extensive grasslands are interspersed with savanna woodlands.
Papua New Guinea has a tropical climate with high rainfall throughout the year and with coastal temperatures that average 28°C humidity is high throughout the island ranging between 70 and 90 percent. As you move to higher altitudes the temperatures drops a few degrees to around 23°C but they can drop even lower depending on how high you go.
There are no distinct seasons on the island although June to September are considered the dry season. The dry season is not really dry, it just means that there is less rain during this period. The rainy season (highest rainfall) is usually between December and March. This is when monsoon clouds drop most of their rain, mostly in the north and west of the territory, and Typhoons often hit the island at this time.
Papua New Guinea People and Culture
Traditional foods: The People of Papua New Guinea have a varied diet which includes vegetables and meat and For the most part fish is a significant part of the diet in coastal areas. Starchy vegetables include wild sago, breadfruit, yams, taro, sweet potatoes and rice. Green vegetables are mostly wild greens with fruits such as bananas, coconuts and mangos. Most meat is from domestic animals although wild fowl, turtles and cassowaries are still hunted. Cooking is mostly roasting or boiling although on special occasions ceremonial ovens are dug and foods are cooked in these pits.
Urban foods: In the urban areas of the Island restaurants offer international cuisine and there are also fast food stands (Kaibars).
Traditional feasts – these are usually to celebrate such things as weddings and births and can go on for days with much dancing, drumming and feasting, mostly on roasted pig cooked in ovens dug into the ground. Although liqueur is not traditional these days much alcohol and beer is usually consumed on these occasions. As a result of past colonial influences Christmas and Easter are also often celebrated with all the trimmings of a traditional feast.
In the past this was unknown but with colonisation came education so there is a marked difference between the peasant or grassroots villager and the new rising elite who are the more educated and higher income earners. Despite this the elite still cling to their traditions and attend traditional ceremonies as well as provide the purse for many such celebrations.
There are 800 distinct tribal cultures in the territory of Papua New Guinea which includes its many surrounding islands.
Modern Life in Papua New Guinea
Port Moresby the Capital of Papua New Guinea is where a modern Western life-style can be experienced, as it is here that nightclubs have been established as well as many restaurants which offer international cuisine but they are expensive. The roads in this city and many of the other larger towns, are filled with imported cars and are the newest status symbol.
There is no social welfare system partly because of the traditional norm that a village will care for its own. Much of government spending is on basic infrastructure and schools and recently projects to deal with AIDS and STDs.