PAPUA NEW GUINEA

The Gimi People

         

 

The Gimi people of Papua New Guinea live in splendoured isolation still adhering to the stone age culture of their ancestors. This culture gives great emphasis to elaborate ceremonies reflecting concerns for fertility - both of the land and the people.

 

Location map showing the Gimi-language area of Papua New Guinea

The Gimi village of Ubaigubi occupies an undulating shelf along the steep and heavily forested southern slopes of Papua New Guinea highlands. The village is laid out in compound for about five miles and comprise a total of some 600 people living mainly in the traditional way. The men live together in a few large oval houses around which are many small round houses for women and children and the highly prized pigs.

It is the women who tend the sweet potato gardens and the pigs. The men hunt, make fences, and clear lands for a garden which will produce for only a couple of years. Although technically no longer in the stone ages as steel axes were first traded some forty years ago, the Gimi still wield the metal tools as they did the stone tools.

As in many traditional society where men remain basically chauvinistic, female creativity as it is symbolized in myths and rituals is still regarded as the ultimate source of power. 

 
The women prepare for a performance by decorating themselves with clay.
Their performance will impart advice to a bride. During the night dancers and
actors move from hut to hut staging sudden entrances to arouse the sleepy heads. Their
skits ridicule everyday life with the women particularly enjoying the theme of husband beating.

 

Male dancers in the same prenuptial ceremony portray the sun and the moon.
In the same manner that these bodies loom above them all, so do the Gimi
men see themselves as dominating life in the Gimi villages. 

                           

Left: A Gimi dancer dressed as a huge flightless bird dramatizes the mysteries of the forests
Right: A Gimi man watches birds of paradise in the forest

Smoke seeps through the roof of a hut helping to keep
the thatch dry and hence more water-repellant

            

Left: Practising a traditional form of sorcery, a Gimi man cooks a banana-leaf packet containing poisonous bark and the "essence" of an intended victim such as nail parings for clippings. Most Gimi people attribute death and illnesses to rituals similar to this one initiated by men seeking to avenge the death of another.  Right: A Gimi man from the village of Ubaigubi defends a seated relative accused of causing illness in a nearby village.

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