|Area:||12,800 km² (13th)|
(as of 2000)
Map of Papua New Guinea highlighting Enga
Enga refers to both an ethnic group located in the highlands of Papua New Guinea and the province in which they are the majority ethnic group.
Enga is the highest and is the second most rugged province (after Simbu Province) in Papua New Guinea. It covers an area of 12,800 km². Much of the province is at altitudes of over 2000 meters. Lower altitude areas are typically valleys which form the watershed for the two major river systems that drain the province, the Lagaip (which is a tributary of the Fly) and the Lai (which is a tributary of the Sepik).
The Papua New Guinea census of 2000 lists the population of Enga at 295,031 people, although the accuracy of the census is questionable. The provincial capital of Enga is Wabag. The two other main centers of population are Wapenamanda and Laiagam. Porgera, at the western edge of the province, is home to a gold mine operated by Barrick Gold.
Enga is unique among the provinces in Papua New Guinea in that it has only one major linguistic and ethnic group: Enga speakers. Although dialects of the Enga language vary greatly from Laiagam in the west to Wapenamanda in the east, Engans' shared ethnic identity overshadows the existence of other ethnic groups in the province, such as Ipili speakers (around Porgera) and Nete speakers.
Like many other highland Papua New Guineans living west of the Daulo Pass (between Simbu Province and Eastern Highlands Province), the traditional Engan settlement style is that of scattered homesteads dispersed throughout the landscape. Historically sweet potato was the staple food, sometimes supplemented by pork. The modern diet places an increasing emphasis on store bought rice and tinned fish and meat. Pigs remain a culturally valued item with elaborate systems of pig exchange also known as "tee" that mark social life in the province.
Traditional Engan culture practiced strict segregation of sexes. During initiation young men between the ages of 16 and 19 were purified in seclusion at a ceremony called the "sangai," in which their eyes were ritually washed with water, to remove any taint resulting from contact with females, and where they prepared traditional finery, the most notable item being a wig made out of their own hair. This distinctive round wig topped with sicklebird feathers is, more than any other item, an icon or symbol of Engan culture today.
Today the most popular religions in Enga are Catholicism, the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) (the Papua New Guinea Missouri Synod Lutherans being confined to Enga and styling themselves the Gutnius Lutheran Church, formerly the Wabag Lutheran Church), the Baptist Church and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Charismatic and pentecostal movements are growing in popularity.
The lifestyle and customs of the Enga people was extensively studied and reported upon by the American anthropologist Mervyn Meggitt.
Kompiam is another District located on the Northern edge of Enga Province as Maramuni a District of its own situated a head of Kompiam sharing border with East Sepik Province. Both Kompiam and Maramuni do share the Physical geography, human geography and culture with the entire Enga Province.
For centuries Engans have constructed dwellings made from locally available bush materials. Roof construction is often of a crude thatch type, waterproofing being obtained by repeated lighting of a heavily smoking fire inside and the accretion of the soot onto the roofing material.
Floors are often dirt, covered with a semi-disposable woven layer of bush material.
In wind prone areas of Enga, wind-proofing of the walls is effected by sealing with a daub mixture of pig manure, tree sap and ash.
Like many ethnic groups in the Papua New Guinea Highlands, Engans often possess a strong and sturdy frame, being neither remarkably short nor tall. Most men cultivate a beard after their early adult years have passed, which will be allowed to grow until it is a fine length. Women too will occasionally cultivate facial hair, it not being regarded as particularly attractive or unnattractive.
Facial tattooing of women is common, for various reasons, and the markings can be as simple as a small circle, all the way to complicated striations which cover the entire face.
As elsewhere in PNG, the wantok system is a key cultural item.
Without generalising too much, Engan people are a proud, strong-willed and independent people, extremely gifted in the arts of negotiation and diplomacy, able to withstand climatic extremes with no visible discomfort, and like most Melanesian peoples, possessing a fine sense of humor and of the ridiculous.
Polygamy is practiced by some Engan men.
Tribal conflicts are common using crude clubs and steel bush knives, occasionally employing the use of shields made from corrugated sheeting. The usual method of engagement is for both warring parties to line up opposite each other, spend several hours verbally abusing each other, with small rushes towards and away from the enemy being made - increasing in boldness. Eventually, a critical point is reached and the battle begins in earnest.
Observing a tribal fight in progress is possible, so long as the observer remains an impartial non-combatant.
Sadly, high-powered rifles, home made shotguns and sidearms are becoming more and more popular weapons in Enga, both for tribal warfare and for raskol activities. Sniper tactics have become a more popular method of settling disputes. When projectile weaponry is utilised in a traditional tribal fight the death toll is significantly higher. This also presents additional hazards for those interested in observing a tribal fight in progress. It is recommended that the observer position themselves well out of the line of fire. Employing the use of a foxhole for protection is an excellent measure, as is the wearing of ballistic armour.
Although little archaeological excavation has been done in Enga, it is clear that the area has been settled for over 12,000 years. Europeans -- typically Australian gold prospectors -- originally entered what is now Enga province from the north in the late 1920s, although the best-known explorations into Enga took place during the early 1930s as prospectors moved in from Mt. Hagen to the west. By World War II Enga had been very roughly mapped by the government; Lutheran and Roman Catholic missionaries were permitted to establish stations beginning in 1949 but a permanent government presence was not established in most of the district until the late 1950s.
Enga was part of Western Highlands District until just before Papua New Guinea independence in 1975, when most of the Enga-speaking part of the District (with the notable exclusion of the Baiyer River region which is inaccessible by road other than from Mount Hagen) was separated into a discrete District. The provincial government has a history of corruption and lack of capacity, and is unique in Papua New Guinea for having had its power suspended three times by the national government due to concerns over its accountability.