Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Kimam live in villages scattered across what little dry ground exists on low-lying Yos Sudarso Island on the south-central coast of New Guinea. Gardens are constructed in the surrounding swamps using layers of soil and vegetation in order to grow tubers and fruit trees; a diet supplemented by gathering, fishing and hunting. Each autonomous village forms the major unit of ritual and political life, and comprises nuclear families residing on patches of raised ground, organized into wards belonging to one of two ceremonially-opposed village sections that complement each other in a variety of ways, including as reciprocal "wife-givers" and "wife-takers."


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


Oceania --Melanesia



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Collection Overview

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

Documents in this collection largely contain observations by a single ethnographer from 1960-1962 on Yos Sudarso Island, Papua, Indonesia. Descriptions of some practices that by then had been largely suppressed, such as ritual homosexuality and headhunting, rely on informant and missionary accounts of events earlier in the century.

The principal focus of the one comprehensive work by Serpenti (1965) is cultural adaptation to living on a swampy island where very little land is even seasonally dry—including settlements with complementary social segments for exchanging women and resources, and labor-intensive agricultural practices accompanied by communal ritual. An article by Serpenti (1984) discusses the broader cultural context of ubiquitous acts of homosexuality and pedophilia, especially beliefs about gender, life and death, and the related production of yams and (re)generation of male power.

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Burawa – bachelors’ house – use "PUBLIC STRUCTURES (344)"

Kwanda – village ward – use "SETTLEMENT PATTERNS (361)" with "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)" and/or with "INTER-COMMUNITY RELATIONS (628)"

Ndambu – competitive feast, often part of mortuary ritual

Paburu – village sector, comprised of wards (see kwanda)

Patha – dwelling island; a joint-dwelling group of nuclear families of comprising a man and his married sons and/or a set of brothers

Rimètje – vital essence believed to leave the body upon death – use "LIFE AND DEATH (761)" or "ESCHATOLOGY (775)"

Undani – magician, sorcerer – use "MAGIC (789)" or "SORCERY (754)"

Wati – kava (Piper methysticum) – use "RECREATIONAL AND NON-THERAPEUTIC DRUGS (276)" and/or "SPECIAL CROPS (249)"

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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