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Kwoma Pitek, Emily


The Kwoma inhabit the Peilungua Mountain Range, located northwest of the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea. The Kwoma are comprised of four autonomous sub-tribes: the Tangwishamp, the Urumbanj, the Koriasi, and the Hongwam; this entry focuses specifically on the Hongwam around the time of 1937. At this time, the Hongwam (hereafter referred to as Kwoma) had some contact with outsiders, including the Ambunti Police Post (and therefore the Australian government) which was located on the southeastern slope of Ambunti mountain. However, substantial culture change (including missionary influence) did not take place until after the time this entry focuses on. The Kwoma do not have an official political office; leadership positions are earned through age, knowledge, and ability. Also absent are official religious leaders; religious activities are performed by what ethnographers have named the Yam cult (because of the yam’s important connection with rituals and social groups). Membership in the highest section and possession of associated ritual knowledge is reserved exclusively for men who have gained importance in the community by having taken a head during a headhunting raid. Although the Kwoma do not have official political officials or religious leaders, the religious sphere of life is not differentiated from other aspects of life. Therefore, this entry considers the religious group to be coterminous with the society itself. A variety of supernatural beings are present, including ghosts and non-human supernatural beings (namely, those known as marsalai). Sorcery plays an important role in explaining sickness and death.

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Attribution 4.0 International