Themes: Housing

Housing in Papua New Guinea


Most Papua New Guineans live in villages, which are usually laid out in very precise ways, with a main avenue leading to a central area surrounded by living quarters. The central area is like a village green, its importance lying in the fact that it is frequently used for rites and ceremonies.  Traditionally, there is also a central spirit house, where important clan artefacts are kept and meetings held - although these are far less common than they used to be, and often now replaced by a church.



In lowland areas houses are often built on stilts, reducing the risk of them being flooded. Other practical flood avoidance measures include building a dyke around the village, which helps absorb heavy rainfall and slows down flow of water. Most houses are built of natural materials, especially wood and grasses. Roofs are usually thatched, and walls are often constructed using a tiling technique, which creates attractive patterns and overlapping shapes. Important houses will be protected by prominent spirit images, which allow spirits or ancestors to be present as protective forces, guarding over the house and its occupants. 



Houses built on stilts are usually entered via a ladder. There is often one main room, which is only loosely divided into areas rather than having interior partitions. Furniture is not as unusual as it used to be. Nevertheless, people generally sit on the floor. Food and other precious items are kept in trunks and bags, or hung from hooks suspended from the ceiling. In the Sepik region, these hooks are frequently carved to resemble ancestor spirits, helping to protect the contents of the bags that hang from them.