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.
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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