Melpa Culture

Western Highlands Province....

culture_melpa.jpgThe highlands of Papua New Guinea were one of the last large groups to be brought into the world community. Mount Hagen and the Wahgi Valley area is the home of the Melpa people and this area was not discovered by the outside world until 1934, when Australian gold prospectors (3 brothers) entered the Wahgi Valley.

In many ways the lifestyle in this area of Papua New Guinea remains relatively unchanged today. These people were among the world's first horticulturists and even today sweet potato gardening is the basis for many things in the area, such as trade. Pigs are a sign of wealth among the Melpa people and it is not uncommon to see women looking after the family pigs and tending to their sweet potato gardens.

The Melpa people are referred to as pre-adapted to capitalism, demonstrating a form of ebullient materialism. Their leaders are mankind's quintessential entrepreneurs, amassing wealth in extended systems of ceremonial exchange, called moka or tee. culture_melpa2.jpgCeremonial exchanges became the measure of a man and men begged and borrowed from their clansmen to sponsor a great moka or tee ceremony. The bigger the presentation, the bigger the man. Trade partners accepted gifts, only to become obliged to reciprocate in the future. However the trick with moka or tee is the need to return an equal amount plus more. It is a system of incremental exchange, not of balance. People are locked into escalating relations of generosity and debt.

The greatest change within the Melpa people has been the suppression of inter group warfare. The traditional cultural values which placed importance on battle skills, sorcery and ritual cult knowledge have given way to more material prestige. Wealth, land and leadership are more easily inherited by the people within the Melpa community than ever before.

The ideal place to stay to experience the Melpa culture is the peaceful and very comfortable Rondon Ridge, which provides guests with breathtaking views over the Wahgi Valley. Trans Niugini Tours conducts day trips into local villages to experience the culture and see tribes such as the famous Papua New Guinea Mud Men. Our experienced and knowledgeable local guides will safely escort you on your adventure.

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