Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Kwoma are a small group of indigenous people living in the Ambunti Sub-Province of the Sepik River region of Papua New Guinea. They are internally divided into two major groups; the "Kwoma" or "hill people" inhabiting the Washkuk Hills on the north of the Sepik River, and the “Nukuma,” or “headwater people” living further north and west along the tributaries of the Sepik. Traditional Kwoma society was organized in a moiety-type clan and localized lineages. The male members of each lineage lived in villages clustered around a men's ceremonial house. They subsist principally on wild sago, supplemented with swidden cultivation, fishing and occasional hunting.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Oceania --Melanesia


Papua New Guinea

OWC Code


Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

The Kwoma Collection (OJ13) consists of several documents, all of them in English, covering social and cultural information circa 1930s -1980s.  The basic sources to consult are by John Whiting, consisting of an ethnographic account (Whiting 1941, no. 1) and a published field work journal (Whiting 1970, no. 2). Together, these provide a comprehensive account of Kwoma society and culture, with particular reference to socialization, family life, economic activities and material culture, as observed in 1936-1937. The remaining documents compliment Whiting by providing additional information on sex and gender relations (Williamson 1983, no. 4), kinship regulation of sex and marriage (Williamson 1983, no. 5), and ceremonial arts and community rituals (Bowden 1983, no. 3).

For more detailed information on the context of the individual works in the file, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Big-men - use "COMMUNITY HEADS (622)" with "STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE (554)"

Handapiya – traditional initiation rite - use "PUBERTY AND INITIATION (881)"

Haus tambaran - ceremonial buildings  - use "PUBLIC STRUCTURES (344)"

Hi – names of groups and persons - use "PERSONAL NAMES (551)"

Magwil – localized exogamous groups - use "SIBS (614)" with "REGULATION OF MARRIAGE (582)"

Mai – spirits of a person  - use "SPIRITS AND GODS (776)" with "ESCHATOLOGY (775)"

May – soul of a deceased relative - use "CULT OF THE DEAD (769)"

Nal – traditional initiation rite - use "PUBERTY AND INITIATION (881)"

Sikilwas – collective name for bush (as opposed to personal) spirits - use "ANIMISM (774)" with "SPIRITS AND GODS (776)"

Sukwiya – dream - use "REVELATION AND DIVINATION (787)"

Yap – myth - use "MYTHOLOGY (773)"

 Yena – yam harvest rituals in which ceremonial carvings depicting clan spirits are displayed - use "ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL (796)" with "REST DAYS AND HOLIDAYS (527)" and/or "VISUAL ARTS (5311)"  

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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